PURPOSE. To explore new strategies for effective isolation, preservation, and expansion of human corneal endothelial cells (HCECs). METHODS. Human corneal Descemet's membrane and corneal endothelial cells were digested with collagenase A or Dispase II in supplemented hormonal epithelial medium (SHEM) for 1.5 to 16 hours. HCEC aggregates derived from collagenase A digestion were preserved in serum-free medium with low or high calcium for up to 3 weeks. Cryosections of HCEC aggregates were subjected to immunostaining with ZO-1, connexin 43, type IV collagen, laminin-5, and perlecan, and apoptosis was determined by TUNEL or cell-viability assay. For expansion, HCEC aggregates were seeded directly or after brief treatment with trypsin/EDTA in SHEM, with or without additional bovine pituitary extract (BPE), nerve growth factor (NGF), or basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF). The resultant HCECs were immunostained with ZO-1, connexin 43, and Ki67. RESULTS. Digestion with collagenase A, but not Dispase, of the stripped Descemet's membrane generated HCEC aggregates, which preserved cell- cell junctions and basement membrane components. High cell viability of HCEC aggregates was preservable in a serum-free, high-calcium, but not low-calcium, medium for at least 3 weeks. Brief treatment of HCEC aggregates with trypsin/EDTA resulted in a higher proliferation rate than without, when cultured in SHEM, and the resultant confluent monolayer of hexagonal cells retained cell- cell junctions. However, additional BPE, NGF, or bFGF did not increase cell proliferation, whereas additional BPE or bFGF disrupted cell- cell junctions. CONCLUSIONS. Collagenase A digestion successfully harvested aggregates with viable HCECs that were preservable for at least 3 weeks in a serum-free, high-calcium medium and, with brief trypsin/EDTA treatment, expanded in the SHEM into a monolayer with hexagonal cells that exhibited characteristic cell junctions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sensory Systems
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience