Corneal Endothelial Cell Integrity in Precut Human Donor Corneas Enhanced by Autocrine Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide

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To demonstrate that vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP), a corneal endothelial (CE) cell autocrine factor, maintains the integrity of corneal endothelium in human donor corneoscleral explants precut for endothelial keratoplasty.


Twelve paired human donor corneoscleral explants used as control versus VIP-treated explants (10 nM, 30 minutes, 37°C) were shipped (4°C) to the Lions Eye Institute for Transplantation and Research for precutting (Moria CBM-ALTK Keratome), shipped back to the laboratory, and cultured in ciliary neurotrophic factor (CNTF, 0.83 nM, 37°C, 24 hours). Trephined endothelial discs (8–8.5 mm) were analyzed for differentiation markers (N-cadherin, CNTF receptor α subunit [CNTFRα], and connexin 43) by Western blot after a quarter of the discs from 4 paired explants were cut away and stained with alizarin red S for microscopic damage analysis. Two additional paired explants (6 days in culture) were stained for panoramic view of central CE damage.


VIP treatment increased N-cadherin and CNTFRα levels (mean ± SEM) to 1.38 ± 0.11-fold (P = 0.003) and 1.46 ± 0.22-fold (P = 0.03) of paired controls, respectively, whereas CE cell CNTF responsiveness in upregulation of connexin 43 increased to 2.02 ± 0.5 (mean ± SEM)-fold of the controls (P = 0.04). CE damage decreased from (mean ± SEM) 10.0% ± 1.2% to 1.6% ± 0.3% (P < 0.0001) and 9.1% ± 1.1% to 2.4% ± 1.0% (P = 0.0006). After 6 days in culture, the damage in whole CE discs decreased from 20.0% (control) to 5.5% (VIP treated).


VIP treatment before precut enhanced the preservation of corneal endothelium.

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