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Exp Eye Res. 2004 Mar;78(3):573-8.

Prospects for endothelial transplantation.

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  • 1University Eye Hospital, University Hospital Carl Gustav Carus at the TU Dresden, Fetscherstrasse 74, Dresden 01307, Germany.



The human corneal endothelium has a limited proliferative capacity in vivo. Until now it has only been possible to replace damaged endothelium by transplantation of a donor cornea. After establishing methods for the isolation and in vitro cultivation of human corneal endothelial cells (HCEC), transplantation of these cells may be an alternative therapeutic option.


In this review methods for the in vitro cultivation of HCEC and their transplantation onto the Descemet membrane of donor corneas are described.


In vitro proliferation of human adult corneal endothelial cells was achieved by the development of defined cell culture conditions, including supplementation of culture medium with specified growth factors. Dependent on the culture conditions, in vitro cultured endothelial cells showed phenotypic changes and different proliferative behaviour. The propagation of corneal endothelial cells in vitro offered the possibility of their transplantation onto donor corneas in an in vitro model. After transplantation, these cells formed a monolayer whose morphology and cell density depended on the differentiation status of the cells in vitro. Highest cell numbers up to 3000 cells/mm2 were achieved using a SV40-transformed HCEC-cell line. Monolayer integrity could be demonstrated by positive staining for integrins and light junction proteins, and pump function of the newly established endothelium was proven by perfusion studies.


Methods to transplant HCEC onto human denuded corneas have been successfully established to reconstruct human corneas. Recent developments in genetic manipulation of cells and tissue engineering will be of great help in constructing suitable corneas for keratoplasty. Thus corneal endothelial cell transplantation is one of the promising future possibilities to provide corneas of high quality for patients. Furthermore, improvement of the transplantation technique may lead to a method to directly manipulate the diseased endothelium of patients with corneal endothelial dystrophies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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