Purpose: To investigate the outcome of cultivated corneal epithelial transplantation for severe stem cell deficiencies using denuded amniotic membrane (AM) as a carrier.
Design: Retrospective, noncomparative case series.
Participants: Thirteen eyes of 11 patients were studied. These consisted of five eyes with acute Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS), two with chronic SJS, one with an acute chemical injury, two with chronic chemical injuries, two with ocular cicatricial pemphigoid, and one with drug-induced pseudopemphigoid. All of these eyes had total stem cell deficiencies.
Main outcome measures: Adaptation of the cultivated corneal epithelium onto the host corneal surface was confirmed 48 hours after surgery. The reconstruction of the ocular surface and visual acuity were measured.
Methods: Corneal limbal epithelium from donor corneas was cultivated for 4 weeks on a denuded AM carrier, with 3T3 fibroblast coculture and air lifting. The cultivated corneal epithelium showed four to five layers of stratification and was well differentiated. After conjunctival tissue removal from the cornea up to 3 mm outside the limbus and subconjunctival tissue treatment with 0.04% mitomycin C, cultivated allocorneal epithelium, including the AM carrier, was transplanted onto the corneal surface up to the limbus. Lamellar keratoplasty, using preserved donor graft without epithelium, was performed simultaneously for five chronic-phase patients showing corneal stromal scarring. Systemic immunosuppression was used to prevent allograft rejection.
Results: In all 13 eyes, the entire corneal surface, on which cultivated allocorneal epithelium had been placed, was free from epithelial defects 48 hours after surgery, indicating complete survival of the transplanted corneal epithelium. Visual acuity improved in all eyes after surgery, and 10 of the 13 eyes were restored to good vision (postoperative visual acuity improved two or more lines) 6 months after the operation. During the follow-up period (mean +/- standard deviation, 11.2 +/- 1.3 months), the corneal surfaces were clear, although three eyes experienced epithelial rejection.
Conclusions: Cultivated corneal epithelial transplantation using denuded AM as a carrier can be used for severe stem cell deficiencies.