To evaluate the efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to ameliorate the consequences of corneal alkali injuries.
Corneal alkali injuries were created in 30 rabbit eyes. The MSC group (n = 15) were treated with intrastromal and subconjunctival injections of phosphate-buffered saline (PBS) containing 2 × 106 MSCs and topical application. The control group (n = 15) was treated with PBS by the same applications forms. Drops of standard treatment (ascorbate 10 %, citrate 10 %, tobramycin, dexamethasone, Cyclogyl) were instilled for 2 weeks. Rabbits underwent slit-lamp examination, fluorescein staining, photography, and were evaluated for corneal neovascularization, opacification, and epithelial defects. Tear secretion and IOP were also evaluated. Furthermore, the concentration of Serumglutamic-pyruvic transaminase (SGPT) and vascular endothelial factor (VEGF) were measured. Immunohistochemistry was also performed for a-SMA and Ki-67.
Eyes treated with MSCs showed better recovery. The mean neovascularized area was significantly smaller in the MSC group (p < 0.05). A significant difference in the degree of corneal opacification and re-epithelialization was also observed, as well as the IOP at 21 and 28 posttraumatic days (p < 0.05). Histology showed that MSCs resulted in almost normal architecture of eye tissues. After the MSCs infusion, SGPT and VEGF levels in cornea were significantly reduced. Immunohistochemistry demonstrated a reduction of a-SMA in the MSC group with higher mitotic-regenerative activity with the presence of Ki67.
Our study represents a first step in understanding the possibilities of the MSC approach to treatment of alkali injuries of the cornea and shows that such an approach improves clinical outcomes and leads to better prognosis.