Besides being a powerful model to study the mechanisms of corneal wound healing, tissue-engineered human corneas (hTECs) are sparking interest as suitable substitutes for grafting purposes. To ensure the histological and physiological integrity of hTECs, the primary cultures generated from human cornea (identified as human limbal epithelial cells (hLECs) that are used to produce them must be of the highest possible quality. The goal of the present study consisted in evaluating the impact of the postmortem/storage time (PM/ST) on their properties in culture. hLECs were isolated from the entire cornea comprising the limbus and central cornea. When grown as monolayers, short PM/ST hLECs displayed increased daily doublings and generated more colonies per seeded cells than long PM/ST hLECs. Moreover, hLECs with a short PM/ST exhibited a markedly faster wound closure kinetic both in scratch wound assays and hTECs. Collectively, these results suggest that short PM/ST hLECs have a greater number of highly proliferative stem cells, exhibit a faster and more efficient wound healing response in vitro, and produce hTECs of a higher quality, making them the best candidates to produce biomaterial substitutes for clinical studies.
Keywords: cornea; microarray; postmortem/storage time; tissue-engineered human cornea; wound healing.