Purpose: The aim of this study was to design an experimental set-up for the study of human corneal epithelial wound healing in a controlled in vitro situation.
Methods: A time-lapse set-up was used. This allowed for pictures to be captured with a magnification ranging from x 80 to x 1800. Pictures were captured at 1-min intervals during the observation period, which lasted up to 4 days. Human corneal tissue was obtained from the Eye Bank or from surgery. A small, rounded lesion was produced in the corneal epithelium with a miniature drill. The specimens were placed in a mini-incubator; the camera focused on the epithelial lesion and continuously observed using the time-lapse set-up.
Results: The healing process of human corneal epithelium could be followed for several days. The initial healing response could be divided into a slow, a rapid and a consolidating phase. The first two phases lasted about 12 hours, and by then, epithelial cells covered the lesion. Depending on the origin of the tissue and the placement of the lesion, variations in the healing response could be seen.
Conclusion: The time-lapse technique makes it possible to study epithelial wound healing over time at the cellular level. Data collected in this way can fill the gap between in vivo studies, where, by nature, human wound healing studies are restricted, and cell culture techniques, where cellular responses in many cases differ from the in vivo situation.