PURPOSE: To determine the potential of somatic gene transfer as a technique for modulating corneal wound healing after superficial keratectomy. METHODS: The transduction of human and rabbit keratocytes with β- galactosidase and herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase genes was performed. In vitro, human and rabbit keratocytes were transduced with retrovital vectors bearing β-galactosidase or HStk (herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase) genes. In vivo, rabbit keratocytes were transduced by topical application of vector supernatant after a superficial keratectomy. In vitro and in vivo, expression of the β-galactosidase gene was examined with histochemical staining. In vitro, ganciclovir cytotoxicity in HStk gene- transduced keratocytes and bystander effect in co-cultures of HStk(+) and HStk(-) keratocytes were measured by determining the degree of confluency of cells in 6-well plates after 10 days of incubation. Corneal haze in rabbits was measured after transduction with Hstk and subsequent treatment with topical ganciclovir. RESULTS: In vitro, both human and rabbit keratocytes were transduced successfully with both β-galactosidase and HStk genes. Transduction efficiency was greater with human (22%) than with rabbit (16%) cells, and both HStk-transduced cell lines showed dose-dependent ganciclovir cytotoxicity and a significant bystander effect. In vivo, expression of β- galactosidase within vimentin-positive corneal stromal cells confirmed transduction of keratocytes in the rabbit after superficial stromal keratectomy with an efficiency of 25% to 40%. Postoperative application of topical ganciclovir reduced corneal stromal haze in rabbits. CONCLUSIONS: The ability to genetically transduce stromal keratocytes provides a new strategy for understanding the important cellular and molecular events that influence corneal wound healing, thus offering a potential approach to decrease or prevent corneal haze and scarring after superficial keratectomy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas