PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate morphological changes induced by corneal collagen cross-linking in a human ex vivo cornea, using confocal, electron, and light microscopy. METHODS: The central epithelium was partially removed from ex vivo human corneal buttons. Riboflavin 0.1% solution was applied before ultraviolet A light treatment and then for every 2 minutes for 30 minutes while the corneas were exposed to ultraviolet A light at a wavelength of 370 nm and intensity of 3 mW/cm. Each cornea was evaluated using confocal, electron, and light microscopy. RESULTS: Confocal microscopy demonstrated normal-appearing corneas on their initial pretreatment examination, with reduced stromal detail. After treatment, a superficial layer of highly reflective spherical structures (4-10 μm) was observed. Many of these hyperreflective structures appeared up to a depth of 300 μm. The remainder of the corneal stroma and endothelium appeared normal. Electron microscopy showed keratocyte apoptotic changes to a depth of 300 μm. No observable pathologic changes were seen on histology. CONCLUSIONS: Based on clinical studies, corneal cross-linking is a promising treatment that appears to be safe and to halt ectatic corneal disease progression. Initial European studies used animal models to extrapolate human protocols. In conjunction with clinical studies, we believe that human ex vivo corneal studies provide a means to evaluate the structural and morphological changes associated with this procedure, within human corneas, in a manner that cannot be accomplished in vivo.
- Ultraviolet A