Purpose: To evaluate morselized amniotic membrane and umbilical cord (AMUC) eye drops in promoting corneal re-epithelialization.
Methods: Following a 2-mm diameter central epithelial wound in one eye of 48 normal C57BL/6 mouse corneas, 10 μL of saline with (n = 24) or without (n = 24) AMUC was applied three times a day for 6 days. The corneal epithelial defect was measured using 0.1% fluorescein, while corneal epithelial regularity was measured by assessment of a reflected light off the corneal surface. Hematoxylin and eosin and immunohistochemistry was performed for Ki-67, CD45, βIII-tubulin, and keratin12. Safety and toxicity were also assessed by monitoring physical activity and body weight.
Results: Compared with the vehicle saline control, AMUC resulted in a significantly smaller corneal epithelial defect at 12 hours (P = 0.002), 1 day (P = 0.016), and 2 days (P = 0.04) post abrasion. Amniotic membrane and umbilical cord also achieved a more rapid complete epithelialization (3.15 ± 1.44 vs. 4.00 ± 1.63 days, P = 0.06) and induced a higher incidence of corneal regularity without affecting physical activity and body weight. Spearman correlation showed that epithelialization was significantly correlated with treatment groups (P < 0.001), time (P < 0.001), and corneal regularity (P = 0.04). Amniotic membrane and umbilical cord significantly decreased CD45+ cell infiltration in the peripheral cornea (P < 0.05) and promoted Ki-67+ cells in the central corneal epithelium (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: Topical AMUC significantly promotes corneal epithelialization and restores corneal regularity by reducing inflammation and promoting proliferation in a murine model of corneal abrasion without causing safety or toxicity concerns. This encouraging preclinical finding warrants a controlled human trial in the future.