Purpose: Reconstruction of the ocular surface in a case of severe bilateral partial limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) with extensive symblephara using autologous cultured conjunctival and limbal epithelium.
Case report: A 31-year-old woman presented with severe bilateral ocular surface disease with partial limbal stem cell deficiency, symblephara, lid and facial scarring, with a vision of 20/400 and counting fingers at 1 m in both eyes. Limbal and conjunctival tissue was harvested from the healthy-appearing left eye and used to generate two sheets of composite epithelium consisting of central limbal and peripheral conjunctival cells. The limbal tissues were explanted in the central region while the conjunctival tissues were explanted on the periphery of the deepithelialized human amniotic membrane (HAM) and nurtured using human corneal epithelial cell medium. After successful generation of a monolayer from both tissues had been confirmed, the composite of cultivated limbal and conjunctival epithelium with HAM was transplanted in each eye after excision of fibrous tissue and release of symblephara. One year postoperatively, the patient had a best spectacle-corrected visual acuity of 20/40 in the right eye (preoperative acuity 20/400) and counting fingers at 1 m in the left eye (same as preoperative) with a stable ocular surface.
Conclusions: Autologous cultured epithelial transplantation is as an excellent option in selected patients with bilateral partial LSCD with small area(s) of healthy limbus in either eye and avoids the attendant risk of rejection and cost and potential toxicity of immunosuppression in allogeneic tissue transplantation. This case also highlights the feasibility of generating a composite culture of limbal and conjunctival epithelium using a single amniotic membrane.