The long term outcome of limbal allografts: the search for surviving cells
Henderson, Timothy R
Coster, Douglas John
Williams, Keryn Anne
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BACKGROUND/AIMS: Limbal allotransplantation is increasingly being used for ocular surface repair in patients with limbal stem cell dysfunction. However, it is uncertain whether donor cells survive long term on the ocular surface and whether patients maintain the early benefits of the procedure. The aims of this study were to investigate the long term outcome of clinical limbal allografts and to correlate outcome with donor cell survival. METHODS: Five patients who had undergone allotransplantation-four keratolimbal allografts and one tarsoconjunctival allograft-from 3-5 years previously, and for whom residual frozen donor ocular tissue was available, were reviewed. Survival of donor cells lifted from the recipient ocular surface by impression cytology was investigated by DNA fingerprinting using primers detecting variable nucleotide tandem repeat sequences. Recipient buccal cells and scleral samples from the remnant donor eye were used to genotype recipients and donors, respectively. Polymerase chain reaction products were sized by Genescan analysis. RESULTS: An objective long term benefit from the procedure (improved Snellen acuity, reduced frequency of epithelial defects, reduced vascularisation, and scarring) was recorded for four patients. Some subjective benefit was also reported. However, in no instances were donor cells recovered from the ocular surface at 3-5 years post-graft. Initial experiments to examine sensitivity indicated that any surviving donor cells must have constituted less than 2.5% of cells sampled. CONCLUSION: Limbal stem cell allotransplantation can provide long term benefits, as measured by objective criteria. However, such benefits do not necessarily correlate with survival of measurable numbers of donor cells on the ocular surface.