Heterologous transplantation versus enhancement of human corneal endothelium

Cornea. 1991 Mar;10(2):136-48. doi: 10.1097/00003226-199103000-00009.


The ability to successfully transplant human corneal endothelium would offer a significant advance in the treatment of many corneal diseases. To investigate the feasibility of this, we established cultures of endothelial cells derived from neonatal human corneas. Eye bank donor corneas were either enhanced with a suspension of cultured endothelial cells or underwent endothelial cell removal and subsequent replacement with cultured endothelium. Following a 48-h incubation, the corneas were transplanted into the eyes of nonhuman primates. Over a 12-month period, 67% of the corneas with complete endothelial cell replacement thinned and remained clear, with a mean corneal thickness of 0.57 mm. Enhanced corneal buttons demonstrated a significantly lower success rate (35%), with opacified and thickened corneas. Control eyes in which the native endothelium was removed demonstrated advanced corneal edema and vascularization, with a mean corneal thickness in excess of 1 mm. By utilizing established tissue-culture techniques, we have demonstrated that human corneal endothelium, when cultured and subsequently transplanted, retains its in vivo pump function. Although further studies are warranted, these results indicate that transplanted human corneal endothelial cells can function normally and suggest the possibility of endothelial cell replacement for therapeutic purposes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Endothelium, Corneal / transplantation*
  • Endothelium, Corneal / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Keratoplasty, Penetrating* / methods
  • Macaca mulatta
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Transplantation, Heterologous