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July 1994

Keratocyte Loss and Repopulation of Anterior Corneal Stroma After De-epithelialization

Author Affiliations

From the Doheny Eye Institute and the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles. The authors have no proprietary interest in any of the products or manufacturers mentioned in this article.

Arch Ophthalmol. 1994;112(7):973-976. doi:10.1001/archopht.1994.01090190121031

Objective:  To quantitate corneal keratocyte loss and repopulation of anterior stroma after de-epithelialization.

Methods:  Fourteen white New Zealand rabbits, each weighing 2.3 to 3.2 kg, were divided into seven groups. Each rabbit underwent a bilateral 6-mm mechanical de-epithelialization procedure. The rabbits were killed two at a time after 1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 14, and 28 days. The corneas were labeled for mitosis using 5-bromo-2-deoxyuridine and stained for keratocyte quantification. Three untreated rabbits were added as controls.

Results:  Corneas that were not operated on showed a higher density of keratocyte nuclei within the anterior corneal stroma than in the posterior stroma. Following de-epithelialization, there was a decrease in the ratio of anterior-posterior keratocytes, with maximal decrease on the third postoperative day. Keratocyte repopulation was completed by day 14. Mitotic activity was seen on days 1, 3, and 6 in the anterior half of the de-epithelialized stroma.

Conclusions:  Anterior stromal keratocytes are lost after epithelial removal, but repopulation is complete within 2 weeks. These findings demonstrate a loss of keratocytes and their recovery after corneal epithelial removal, as well as an interaction between corneal epithelium and stroma in rabbits.

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