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Lens Eye Toxic Res. 1992;9(3-4):361-75.

Cytotoxicity of ophthalmic preservatives on human corneal epithelium.

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Visual Sciences Center, University of Chicago, IL 60637.


Because the corneal epithelium invariably encounters the full concentration of the preservative that is contained in multi-dose topical ophthalmic preparations, we investigated the cytotoxicity of several of these agents by using a sensitive model of human corneal epithelial cells in vitro. Primary cultures of epithelial cells were prepared from freshly enucleated globes. At confluence, all experimental cultures received a single dose of preservative at the concentration present in marketed formulations. The serum in the culture medium simulated the possible neutralizing effect of proteins present in the tear film in vivo. The cells were observed continuously by phase-contrast microscopy and time-lapse videomicrography for 24 hrs. Benzalkonium chloride at a concentration of 0.01% and chlorobutanol at 0.5% caused immediate cell retraction, as well as cessation of normal cytokinesis, cell movement, and mitotic activity; the epithelial cells degenerated within 2 hrs and 8 hrs, respectively. Cultures treated with chlorobutanol developed conspicuous blebs on the cell surface after 3 to 5 hrs of exposure. Thimerosal (0.001%) caused cell retraction, cessation of mitotic activity, and total cell destruction within 9 hrs. Sorbic acid (0.1% and 0.2%) greatly reduced cell movement and suppressed mitotic activity, but no cell death occurred. At concentrations of 50 ppm and 30 ppm, H2O2 instantaneously caused a marked retraction of the cells, followed by cessation of cytokinesis, cell movement, and mitosis. Retraction and death of the epithelial cells occurred within 12-24 hrs after exposure to 1 ppm H2O2 in serum-free medium. Polyquaternium ammonium chloride (0.001%) and polyaminopropyl biguanide (0.00005%) had no discernible effects on cytokinetic movement or on the mitotic activity of the epithelial cells. We relate our findings in vitro to those reported in vivo and discuss the mechanism of cytotoxicity of the various preservatives.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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