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Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010 Apr;51(4):1898-904. doi: 10.1167/iovs.09-4066. Epub 2009 Oct 8.

Donor and recipient endothelial cell population of the transplanted human cornea: a two-dimensional imaging study.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Linköping University Hospital, Linköping, Sweden;



To elucidate the pattern of donor and recipient endothelial cell populations in transplanted human corneas and determine the degree to which donor endothelial cells survive in the graft.


Thirty-six corneal grafts were collected from recipients of opposite sex to the donor, at the time of retransplantation for various indications. Cells from the endothelial side of the grafts were harvested, preserving their relative location on the endothelium. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of the sex chromosomes enabled each cell to be identified as donor- or recipient-derived. Images of the graft endothelium were assembled, to depict the pattern of cell population of the graft, and the proportion of donor cells present was estimated.


Endothelial cells of donor origin were found in 26 of 36 grafts (72.2%)-in one case, up to 26 years after transplantation. The proportion of donor endothelium ranged from 2% to 99%; however, there was no significant correlation of this proportion with postoperative time (P = 0.19). The mean annual rate of donor cell loss correlated negatively with the time to graft failure by endothelial decompensation (P = 0.002). Endothelial images indicated a highly variable pattern of recipient cell repopulation of the graft. A tendency toward donor cell retention in transparent, successful grafts was noted; however, this feature alone was not a reliable indicator of long-term graft transparency.


Two-dimensional imaging of the corneal graft endothelium revealed a variable pattern and extent of donor and recipient cell population, indicating the highly dynamic nature of the corneal endothelium after transplantation.

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