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Mol Vis. 2011;17:3437-49. Epub 2011 Dec 28.

Cornea lenticule viability and structural integrity after refractive lenticule extraction (ReLEx) and cryopreservation.

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Tissue Engineering and Stem Cell Group, Singapore Eye Research Institute, Singapore.



To assess and compare keratocyte viability and collagen structure in cornea stroma lenticules collected immediately after refractive lenticule extraction (ReLEx) and one month after cryopreservation.


The fresh and cryopreserved human stroma lenticules procured after ReLEx were processed for ultrastructural analysis of keratocytes and collagen fibrils with transmission electron microscopy (TEM), apoptotic cell detection with deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated nick end labeling assay (TUNEL) assay, and cultured for keratocyte-specific gene expression analysis using reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).


The periphery of the lenticule had greater TUNEL-positive cells compared to the center of the lenticule in both fresh and cryopreserved groups. There was an increase in TUNEL-positive cells after cryopreservation, which was significantly higher in the center of the lenticule, but not in the periphery. TEM showed apoptotic, necrotic and viable quiescent keratocytes in fresh and cryopreserved lenticules. Collagen analysis with TEM showed a well preserved and well aligned structure in fresh and cryopreserved lenticules; without significant change in the total number of collagen fibrils but with an increased collagen fibril density (CFD) after cryopreservation. In vitro, isolated keratocytes derived from fresh and cryopreserved lenticules exhibited a typical fibroblastic phenotype. RT-PCR showed a positive gene expression for keratocan (KERA) and aldehyde dehydrogenase 3A1 (ALDH3A1) in cells isolated from fresh and cryopreserved lenticules.


The stromal lenticules extracted from ReLEx surgery remain viable after cryopreservation. Although they showed a decrease in CFD, the collagen architecture was preserved and there was good cellular viability.

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