Supplementation of organ culture medium with dextran is not required in pre-stripped human donor tissue for DMEK surgery


To assess corneal endothelial cell (CEC) quantity and quality in eye-bank prepared lamellar grafts for Descemet Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) from organ cultured donor corneas that have not undergone de-swelling by media supplementation with dextran. Prior to graft preparation, corneas that had not undergone de-swelling (n = 30) were placed into fresh storage medium without dextran (KMI). Corneas in the control group (n = 30) were placed in dehydration medium containing 5% dextran (KMII). Subtotal stripping of Descemet’s membrane (DM) was performed manually. Following graft preparation, 10 corneas of each group were cultured further in their respective medium for 24 h, 72 h, or 120 h, respectively. Before and after DM stripping, as well as at the end of culture, CEC numbers were obtained. At the end of culture, CEC morphology was graded using a scoring system and CEC metabolism was assessed by detection of adenosine triphosphate. At 24 h after DM stripping, mean CEC counts (in cells/mm2) were 2204 in corneas stored in KMII, and 2391 in corneas stored in KMI (p = 0.003). This corresponds to a mean relative CEC loss of 12.4% with dextran versus 9.7% without dextran (p = 0.04). At 72 h, CEC counts were 1946 in KMII, and 2289 in KMI (p = 0.004). This corresponds to CEC loss of 23% with dextran versus 14% without dextran (p = 0.009). At 120 h, CEC counts were 2047 in KMII, and 2230 in KMI (p = 0.14). This corresponds to CEC loss of 22.7% with dextran versus 17.2% without dextran (p = 0.14). Also, at 120 h after DM stripping, 6/10 corneas fell below a threshold of 2000 cells/mm2 if stored in medium containing dextran, versus 1/9 corneas if stored without dextran (p = 0.003). Morphological assessment of CEC quality revealed equal scores for cell polymorphism (median = 1), granulation (median = 0) and segmentation (median = 1) in all groups. Lower ATP/protein ratios were observed in corneas stored in medium without dextran at 24 h (p < 0.001), 72 h (p < 0.001), and 120 h (p = 0.02). Abandoning the use of dextran in corneas destined for DMEK surgery leads to increased CEC counts and thereby serves to reduce tissue loss.

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Correspondence to Johannes Menzel-Severing.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors. However, this article does contain studies using human tissue. Informed consent was obtained from the relatives of all post-mortem tissue donors included in the study. All study procedures were performed in accordance with the principles laid down in the Declaration of Helsinki.

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Salla, S., Kruse, F.E., Walter, P. et al. Supplementation of organ culture medium with dextran is not required in pre-stripped human donor tissue for DMEK surgery. Cell Tissue Bank 20, 193–200 (2019).

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  • Lamellar keratoplasty
  • Corneal transplantation
  • Tissue banking
  • DMEK