PURPOSE. To elucidate the pathomechanism of Fuchs' dystrophy and pseudophakic bullous keratopathy (PBK) by examining cell apoptosis in different corneal layers. METHODS. The authors studied corneal buttons obtained from 21 eyes following central penetrating keratoplasty: 14 corneal buttons (13 patients, age 70.8 ± 10.0 years) with Fuchs' dystrophy, and 7 buttons (7 patients, age 69.6 ± 10.2 years) with PBK. Four buttons from enucleated eyes with choroidal melanoma served as controls. Histologic changes were examined using light microscopy with hematoxylin-eosin (HE) staining. The average numbers of apoptotic cells per field of view (125x magnification) in separate samples of the epithelial, stromal, and endothelial layers were determined using the TUNEL (terminal deoxyribonucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP-digoxigenin nick-end labeling) assay. RESULTS. In 11 of the Fuchs' dystrophy corneas and 2 of the PBK corneas, apoptotic activity was detected. In the control corneas no apoptotic activity was found. Compared to the controls there was a statistically significant difference in the mean (normalized) apoptotic cell numbers for all three layers (p=0.01 in each case) in the Fuchs' dystrophy corneas, and for the stromal layer (p<0.01) in PBK corneas. The apoptotic cell numbers for the epithelial and endothelial layers of the latter were higher, but the difference was not statistically significant (p=0.07, 0.07). CONCLUSIONS. Apoptosis may play a role in the pathomechanism of Fuchs' dystrophy and in keratocyte death in corneas with PBK.
- Fuchs' dystrophy
- Pseudophakic bullous keratopathy
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