The possible protective role of trehalose on ultraviolet-irradiated rabbit cornea: a histological and immunohistochemical study

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Ultraviolet (UV) radiation induces a variety of ocular diseases. Trehalose, a disaccharide of glucose, has been shown to be effective in protecting cells against a variety of stressful environmental conditions, such as dehydration, heat, cold, oxidation, hypoxia, and anoxia.

Aim of the work

This study was conducted to evaluate the histological and immunohistochemical changes that might occur in rabbit cornea after UV exposure and the possible protective role of trehalose.

Materials and methods

Twenty adult female rabbits were divided into two groups: group I (the control group) and group II (the irradiated group). Group II was subdivided into three subgroups – subgroup IIa comprising irradiated rabbits; subgroup IIb comprising irradiated rabbits that received trehalose for 2 weeks; and subgroup IIc comprising irradiated rabbits that received buffered saline for 2 weeks. The animals of all groups were sacrificed and corneas were processed for histological and immunohistochemical study.


UV exposure induced ulceration and apoptotic changes in the corneal epithelium. An apparent reduction in corneal epithelial thickness was noticed. Corneal stroma showed edema, cellular infiltration, and vascularization. Descemet’s membrane showed marked increase in thickness together with irregular rounded Descemet’s endothelium. Trehalose treatment induced marked improvement in the corneal structure as evident by a decrease in apoptosis with regain of normal corneal epithelial thickness compared with saline treatment.


Our results show that trehalose accelerates the healing of UV-irradiated corneas, and hence topical trehalose administration may be a potential treatment method to limit the damages caused by UV irradiation, with wide clinical applications.

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