Author(s): Meller D, Pires RT, Tseng SC
Abstract Share this page
Abstract BACKGROUND/AIM: Amniotic membrane (AM) transplantation effectively expands the remaining limbal epithelial stem cells in patients with partial limbal stem cell deficiency. The authors investigated whether this action could be produced ex vivo. METHODS: The outgrowth rate on AM was compared among explants derived from human limbus, peripheral cornea, and central cornea. For outgrowth of human limbal epithelial cells (HLEC), cell cycle kinetics were measured by BrdU labelling for 1 or 7 days, of which the latter was also chased in primary cultures, secondary 3T3 fibroblast cultures, and in athymic Balb/c mice following a brief treatment with a phorbol ester. Epithelial morphology was studied by histology and transmission electron microscopy, and phenotype was defined by immunostaining with monoclonal antibodies to keratins and mucins. RESULTS: Outgrowth rate was 0/22 (0\%) and 2/24 (8.3\%) for central and peripheral corneal explants, respectively, but was 77/80 (96.2\%) for limbal explants (p <0.0001). 24 hour BrdU labelling showed a uniformly low (that is, less than 5\%) labelling index in 65\% of the limbal explants, but a mixed pattern with areas showing a high (that is, more than 40\%) labelling index in 35\% of limbal explants, and in all (100\%) peripheral corneal explants. Continuous BrdU labelling for 7 days detected a high labelling index in 61.5\% of the limbal explants with the remainder still retaining a low labelling index. A number of label retaining cells were noted after 7 day labelling followed by 14 days of chase in primary culture or by 21 days of chase after transplantation to 3T3 fibroblast feeder layers. After exposure to phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate for 24 hours and 7 day labelling, HLEC transplanted in athymic mice still showed a number of label retaining basal cells after 9 days of chase. HLEC cultured on AM were strongly positive for K14 keratin and MUC4 and slightly positive in suprabasal cells for K3 keratin but negative for K12 keratin, AMEM2, and MUC5AC. After subcutaneous implantation in athymic mice, the resultant epithelium was markedly stratified and the basal epithelial cells were strongly positive for K14 keratin, while the suprabasal epithelial cells were strongly positive for K3 keratin and MUC4, and the entire epithelium was negative for K12 keratin and MUC5A/C. CONCLUSIONS: These data support the notion that AM cultures preferentially preserve and expand limbal epithelial stem cells that retain their in vivo properties of slow cycling, label retaining, and undifferentiation. This finding supports the feasibility of ex vivo expansion of limbal epithelial stem cells for treating patients with total limbal stem cell deficiency using a small amount of donor limbal tissue.
This article was published in Br J Ophthalmol
and referenced in Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy