Indexed on: 26 Oct '05Published on: 26 Oct '05Published in: Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery
To develop an in vitro human corneal model to evaluate stromal epithelial interactions following corneal refractive surgical procedures.Department of Academic Ophthalmology, Rayne Institute, St. Thomas' Hospital, London, United Kingdom.Fifty-six human donor corneas procured from the eye bank were placed in a specially designed acrylic corneal holder and were cultured using the air-interface organ culture technique for up to 4 weeks. Corneal refractive surgical procedures such as a simple epithelial defect, 4 diopter (D) and 9 D photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), 4 D and 9 D laser-assisted subepithelial keratectomy (LASEK), and 9 D laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) were performed on the model. Temporal events in epithelial and keratocyte cell kinetics were evaluated using digital imaging, confocal microscopy, and light microscopy. Two-way analysis of variance and Student t tests were used to assess statistical significance.Epithelial healing following PRK was completed by 92 hours +/- 10 (SD) at a rate of 0.58 +/- 0.45 mm2/hour. In LASEK, the epithelial flap was replaced by regenerating peripheral epithelium that showed significant delay in epithelial closure (120 +/- 5 hours) with prolonged latency (24 +/- 4 hours, P<.0001) in comparison with PRK. The magnitude of keratocyte loss corresponded to ablation depth, and keratocyte regeneration was dependent on epithelial closure. In comparison, LASIK corneas showed a lesser percentage of keratocyte loss with poor recovery of keratocyte density in the stromal flap. Epithelial viability and keratocyte density were well preserved in the in vitro human model as observed in control corneas for up to 4 weeks.The temporal events in stromal epithelial interactions in the in vitro human model closely mimicked in vivo observations. The human model further avoided species-specific variations and provided a suitable test bed for evaluating newer algorithms and therapeutic regimens following refractive surgery.