To investigate the feasibility of Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty (DSAEK) using cultured human corneal endothelial cells (HCECs) in an animal model.
Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty grafts were produced by seeding cultured HCEC suspensions onto human corneal stromal discs. Three insertion techniques were assessed in an ex vivo model. The feasibility of DSAEK grafts with cultured HCECs was examined in a rabbit model. Rabbits received stromal disc transplants with cultured HCECs (c-DSAEK) or without HCECs (controls).
The HCECs on the DSAEK grafts had a consistent size and polygonal shape. Mean (SD) percentage of cell loss in the taco-folding group (38.7% [5.2%]) was significantly greater than that in the Busin glide (11.6% [1.5%]; P = .001) and lens glide (18.0% [5.4%]; P = .007) groups. Corneal transparency gradually recovered in the c-DSAEK group, whereas edema persisted for up to 28 days in controls. Histologic examination after surgery revealed donor HCECs covering the posterior surface of the graft in the c-DSAEK group.
Further enhancements of the efficacy and safety of DSAEK using cultured HCECs will make this a clinically feasible alternative therapy for corneal endothelial dysfunction.
Descemet stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty using cultured HCECs may be a novel therapeutic approach to treat corneal endothelial dysfunction.