Transplantation of ex vivo cultured limbal epithelial stem cells: a review of techniques and clinical results

Surv Ophthalmol. 2007 Sep-Oct;52(5):483-502. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2007.06.013.


Ex vivo cultured limbal epithelial stem cells have been used successfully to treat corneal limbal stem cell deficiency. We identified 17 reports of the application of this novel cell-based therapy in humans. In addition we identified four reports of the use of culture oral mucosal epithelial cells to treat limbal stem cell deficiency. We examined these reports to discern the success rate, complication rate, visual outcome, whether there is an optimal technique and which patients are the most likely to benefit. We also discuss the different culture methods employed and the regulations governing cell banks that are providing this service. We found that the techniques used to cultivate and transplant cells varied, but that no individual method was clearly superior. The reported success rate is similar across all studies for both allografts and autografts. The clinical indications for this treatment are not clearly defined as indicated by the variety of disorders treated. Follow-up is limited and the long-term success rate is yet to be established. Nonetheless, we conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support the continued use and refinement of this procedure as a treatment for corneal stem cell deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Corneal Diseases / surgery*
  • Epithelial Cells / transplantation
  • Epithelium, Corneal / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Stem Cell Transplantation / methods*