Fate of endothelial cells after intrastromal implantation of Descemet's membrane-endothelial cell tissue

Pietro Rosetta, Alessandro Ruzza, Mohit Parekh, Paola Gallon, Riccardo Vinciguerra, Stefano Ferrari, Harminder S Dua, Diego Ponzin, Paolo Vinciguerra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In non-Descemet Stripping Automated Endothelial Keratoplasty (nDSAEK), the host DM and endothelium are not removed surgically before the introduction of the posterior lamellar graft; the result is that the patient has both the healthy donor endothelium and the diseased or residual host endothelium. Conversely, DSAEK tissues, that are inserted with inverted polarity (upside down), do not survive and the graft fails. While the mechanism of endothelial cell transplantation is clear, the fate of the endothelial cells retained between two stromal interfaces and their physiological role, if any, is not well understood. The aim of our study was therefore to evaluate the viability of a healthy endothelial-Descemet's membrane (EDM) graft after the insertion into a stromal pocket of a recipient donor cornea. Research corneas (n = 52) were divided into three groups: Group A, where an EDM (obtained from another cornea) with good endothelium was inserted in a stromal pocket endothelium side down; Group B, consisting of control corneas with a stromal pocket but without EDM insertion; and Group C, pre-stripped membranes resting on their stroma (not in a stromal pocket). The tissues were preserved in tissue culture medium for 21 days at 31 °C. Parameters including viability of endothelial cells, expression of tight junctions (ZO-1) and thickness were evaluated. After 21 days, all the membranes inserted within the stromal pocket of Group A survived, although an average endothelial cell loss of 30.1% (± 18.10) and a mortality of 10.2% (± 22.86) were recorded. Qualitative analysis using triple staining with Hoechst, ethidium homodimer and calcein AM confirmed the mortality. ZO-1 was expressed where the cells were present, showing good integrity of tight junctions. Group C showed an average endothelial cell loss of 1.9% (± 3.38), a mortality of 0.02% (± 0.07) and a higher expression of ZO-1. An EDM graft with endothelium facing downwards can survive in a stromal pocket for at least 3 weeks, with an overall cell mortality of 30%. Further studies are needed to evaluate the possible outcomes of the insertion of a healthy intrastromal EDMs with reverse polarity and in edematous corneas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-545
Number of pages11
JournalCell and Tissue Banking
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020


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