Dysfunction of limbal stem cells or their niche can result in painful, potentially sight-threatening ocular surface disease. We examined the utility of surface-modified porous-silicon (pSi) membranes as a scaffold for the transfer of oral mucosal cells to the eye. Male-origin rat oral mucosal epithelial cells were grown on pSi coated with collagen-IV and vitronectin, and characterised by immunocytochemistry. Scaffolds bearing cells were implanted into normal female rats, close to the limbus, for 8 weeks. Histology, immunohistochemistry and a multiplex nested PCR for sry were performed to detect transplanted cells. Oral mucosal epithelial cells expanded on pSi scaffolds expressed the corneal epithelial cell marker CK3/12. A large percentage of cells were p63+, indicative of proliferative potential, and a small proportion expressed ABCG2+, a putative stem cell marker. Cell-bearing scaffolds transferred to the eyes of live rats, were well tolerated, as assessed by endpoint histology. Immunohistochemistry for pan-cytokeratins demonstrated that transplanted epithelial cells were retained on the pSi membranes at 8 weeks post-implant, but were not detectable on the central cornea using PCR for sry. The pSi scaffolds supported and retained transplanted rat oral mucosal epithelial cells in vitro and in vivo and recapitulate some aspects of an artificial stem cell niche.
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- Oral mucosa
- Epithelical cells