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Neil Lagali, Ulf Stenevi, Margareta Claesson, Per Fagerholm, Charles Hanson, Birgitta Weijdegård, the Swedish Society of Corneal Surgeons; Survival of Donor-Derived Cells in Human Corneal Transplants. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2009;50(6):2673-2678. doi: 10.1167/iovs.08-2923.
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purpose. To determine the fate of donor epithelial, stromal, and endothelial cells after corneal transplantation in humans.
methods. Fifty-two transplanted corneal buttons were explanted over a 2-year period from patients who required regrafting and had received corneas from donors of opposite sex. Fluorescence in situ hybridization of the sex chromosomes of the epithelial, stromal, and endothelial cells was performed in histologic sections prepared from each freshly explanted graft. Fluorescence microscopy was subsequently used to determine the origin of cells in the graft (donor or recipient) and to quantify the relative proportion of donor and recipient cells of each corneal cell type.
results. As early as 3 months after transplantation, donor epithelial cells were completely replaced by recipient epithelium in all corneal buttons examined. Donor stromal and endothelial cells, however, were found in all 52 buttons, with 4% to 95% of stromal cells and 6% to 95% of endothelial cells being of donor origin. No significant correlation between donor cell proportion and the age of the graft could be found. Donor-derived cells were found in significant numbers up to 32 years after transplantation. Eight corneas in this study were transparent, compensated grafts, and a similar long-term survival of donor stromal and endothelial cells was found in these cases.
conclusions. Although donor epithelial cells are promptly replaced, a high proportion of donor stromal and endothelial cells can survive within the corneal transplant in the long-term. The proportion of surviving donor cells is highly variable; however, the source of this variability remains unknown.
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