Isolation, Culture, Optimization and Validation of Human Corneal Stromal Keratocytes from Discarded Corneal Tissue

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Sciences, Faculty of Advanced Sciences and Technology, Tehran Medical Sciences, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran.

2 Department of Genetics, Faculty of Advanced Science and Technology, Islamic Azad University, Tehran Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 Farhikhtegan Medical Convergence Sciences Research Center, Farhikhtegan Hospital Tehran Medical Sciences, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

4 Nanobiotechnology Research Center, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

5 Human Genetics Research Center, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

6 Chemical Injuries Research Center, Systems Biology and Poisonings Institute, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran


 Introduction: Keratocytes are the major components of the human corneal stromal cell. Cell therapy by keratocytes can be used in some corneal diseases. Because keratocytes are mitotically quiescent; therefore, the cultivation of these cells is associated with challenges. The present study aimed to isolate, culture, and validate keratocyte cells from discarded corneal tissue based on optimizing some cultivation conditions.
Materials and Methods: In this experimental study, keratocytes were isolated from discarded corneal tissue. Different culture medium composition such as amniotic membrane extract, time, and the role of coating scaffolds was evaluated. Real-time PCR of specific genes were used to confirm the primary keratocyte cells compared to corneal epithelial cells. The specific genes were keratocan, lumicane, aldehyde dehydrogenase three members of family A1 (ALDH3A1), and CD34. In addition, immunocytochemistry (ICC) was used to confirm the expression of specific keratocan and lumican markers.
Results: Keratocytes was isolated and cultured in the culture medium containing amniotic membrane extract. Based on analyses, keratocan, lumicane, ALDH3A1, and CD34 gene expression in keratocytes was significantly higher than in the epithelial cells. Moreover, keratocan and lumican expression was detected in 92.5% and 91.1% of the cells, respectively. According to the results, the addition of amniotic membrane extract significantly increased the growth of keratocytes.
Conclusions: Our findings in this study showed that discarded corneal tissue can be used as a suitable source for obtaining keratocyte cells needed in corneal tissue engineering.