Rabbit corneal basal epithelial cells seeded onto fixed gelatin membranes or commercial collagen shields formed 3 to 5 cell layers after 1 to 3 weeks of culture at 35-degrees-C in nutrient medium. The cells grew better, by comparison, in the collagen shields and eventually formed a multilayered tissue that resembled the stratified morphology of native epithelium. Transfer of multilayered cultures (prior to stratification) from these carriers in vitro to denuded corneal buttons or cryolathed lenticules resulted in complete adhesion of the grafted tissue to the underlying recipient buttons after 24- to 48-h incubations. After mechanically removing the carriers, most of the epithelial cells remained attached to the stromal surface. Our experimental findings indicated that both kinds of carriers may be suitable for epithelial transplantation, although the collagen shield is probably superior because of its better biocompatibility and physical characteristics.
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