Aim: To investigate the expression of p63 and cytokeratins throughout the course of producing a cultivated autograft of limbal epithelial cells.
Methods: A 75 year old male with a severe alkali burn to his right eye received two cultivated autografts of limbal epithelial cells on amniotic membrane followed by a corneal allograft. Immunostaining for p63 and cytokeratins was performed during ex vivo expansion with 3T3 fibroblasts, following subcultivation on amniotic membrane, and on the excised corneal button.
Results: Cultures grown in the presence of 3T3 fibroblasts or on amniotic membrane displayed positive staining for keratins 14 and 19, and p63, but poor staining for keratin 3 (K3). The excised corneal button possessed a stratified epithelium of K3 positive cells residing on amniotic membrane.
Conclusions: Our results document for the first time the co-expression of cytokeratins 14 and 19 with p63 in a cultivated limbal graft. These data support the conclusion that cultivated grafts of limbal epithelium contain predominantly undifferentiated cells with the potential to regenerate a normal corneal epithelium.