Objective: To report phenotypic analysis of epithelia before and following cultivated limbal epithelial transplantation (CLET) for eyes with limbal stem cell deficiency. Methods: Six patients with limbal stem cell deficiency (3 with alkali burns, 2 with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and 1 with pseudo-ocular cicatricial pemphigoid) were subjected to CLET and subsequent keratoplasty. Immunohistochemical analysis for cytokeratin 3, cytokeratin 13, MUC5AC (Mucin 5 subtype AC), and α smooth muscle actin was performed in specimens obtained at CLET and keratoplasty. Clinical outcome was assessed according to epithelial phenotype, visual acuity, neovascularization, and graft clarity. Results: Secondary keratoplasty was performed following CLET during a mean interval of 6.8 months. Postoperative visual acuity improved by more than 2 lines over a mean ± SD observation period of 25.1 ± 13.2 months following keratoplasty, with reduction of neovascularization. Phenotypic study revealed that epithelia were positive for cytokeratin 13 and MUC5AC, but negative for cytokeratin 3, with α smooth muscle actin-positive cells in the stroma in all patients before CLET. After CLET, 4 eyes showed positive immunostaining to cytokeratin 3 but negative immunostaining to cytokeratin 13 and MUC5AC, with no α smooth muscle actin-positive cells. Conclusion: Cultivated limbal epithelial transplantation is a useful approach in the treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency, restoring a feasible microenvironment in the ocular surface and securing a corneal epithelial phenotype.
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