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Gene Ther. 2011 Aug;18(8):778-87. doi: 10.1038/gt.2011.20. Epub 2011 Mar 17.

Anti-apoptotic gene therapy prolongs survival of corneal endothelial cells during storage.

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  • 1The Schepens Eye Research Institute, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Corneal transplantation is the most common form of grafting performed worldwide. Corneal endothelial cells (EC) form a monolayer in the posterior portion of the cornea and are essential for corneal transparency. EC loss during storage before transplantation is a principal reason for rendering donor tissue unsuitable for transplantation, and apoptosis has been shown to be the major contributor to EC loss during storage and after transplantation. Therefore, the potential use of anti-apoptotic gene therapy to promote both graft storage and graft survival is of major interest. The goal of this study was to transduce human donor corneas in vitro to enhance EC survival during storage conditions used in eye banking. We utilized a lentiviral vector to perform gene transfer of baculoviral p35 or mammalian Bcl-xL to corneal endothelium in different storage conditions utilizing a lentiviral vector. Our results show significantly enhanced survival and prolonged retention of physiological EC morphology in cells expressing either p35 or Bcl-xL. The clinical application of this technology could lead to a higher availability of donor tissue for transplantation, extend storage periods and reduce graft failure after transplantation.

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