Purpose: To determine the outcome of the use of a tissue-engineered cell sheet composed of human undifferentiated immature dental pulp stem cells (hIDPSC) for ocular surface reconstruction in an animal model of total limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD).
Methods: LSCD was induced by the application of 0.5 M NaOH to the right eye of rabbits for 25 seconds (mild chemical burn [MCB]) and for 45 seconds (severe chemical burn [SCB]). After 1 month, a superficial keratectomy was performed to remove the fibrovascular pannus that covered the animals' burned corneas. A tissue-engineered hIDPSC sheet was transplanted onto the corneal bed and then covered with deepithelialized human amniotic membrane (AM). In the respective control groups, the denuded cornea was covered with AM only. After 3 months, a detailed analysis of the rabbit eyes was performed with regard to clinical aspect, histology, electron microscopy, and immunohistochemistry.
Results: Corneal transparency of the rabbit eyes that underwent hIDPSC transplantation was improved throughout the follow-up, while the control corneas developed total conjunctivalization and opacification. Rabbits from the MCB group showed clearer corneas with less neovascularization. The clinical data were confirmed by histologic analysis that showed healthy uniform corneal epithelium, especially in the MCB group. The presence of hIDPSC was detected using an anti-hIDPSC antibody. The corneal tissue also showed positive immunostaining with anti-human antibodies. In the control corneas, none of these antigens were detected.
Conclusions: Overall, these data showed that transplantation of a tissue-engineered hIDPSC sheet was successful for the reconstruction of corneal epithelium in an animal model of LSCD.