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    The long-term success of visual rehabilitation in patients with severe conjunctival scarring is reliant on the reconstruction of the conjunctiva with a suitable substitute. The purpose of this study is the development and investigation of a re-epithelialized conjunctival substitute based on porcine decellularized conjunctiva (PDC). PDC was re-epithelialized either with pre-expanded human conjunctival epithelial cells (PDC + HCEC) or with a human conjunctival explant placed directly on PDC (PDC + HCEx). Histology and immunohistochemistry were performed to evaluate epithelial thickness, proliferation (Ki67), apoptosis (Caspase 3), goblet cells (MUC5AC), and progenitor cells (CK15, ΔNp63, ABCG2). The superior construct (PDC + HCEx) was transplanted into a conjunctival defect of a rabbit (n = 6). Lissamine green staining verified the epithelialization in vivo. Orbital tissue was exenterated on day 10 and processed for histological and immunohistochemical analysis to examine the engrafted PDC + HCEx. A human-specific antibody was used to detect the transplanted cells. From day-14 in vitro onward, a significantly thicker epithelium and greater number of cells expressing Ki67, CK15, ΔNp63, and ABCG2 were noted for PDC + HCEx versus PDC + HCEC. MUC5AC-positive cells were found only in PDC + HCEx. The PDC + HCEx-grafted rabbit conjunctivas were lissamine-negative during the evaluation period, indicating epithelial integrity. Engrafted PDC + HCEx showed preserved progenitor cell properties and an increased number of goblet cells comparable to those of native conjunctiva. Placing and culturing a human conjunctival explant directly on PDC (PDC + HCEx) enables the generation of a stable, stratified, goblet cell-rich construct that could provide a promising alternative conjunctival substitute for patients with extensive conjunctival stem and goblet cell loss. Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Citation

    Joana Witt, Jana Dietrich, Sonja Mertsch, Stefan Schrader, Kristina Spaniol, Gerd Geerling. Decellularized porcine conjunctiva as an alternative substrate for tissue-engineered epithelialized conjunctiva. The ocular surface. 2020 Oct;18(4):901-911

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    PMID: 32860970

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