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Identification of Human Fibroblast Cell Lines as a Feeder Layer for Human Corneal Epithelial Regeneration
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012
Author: Rong Lu et al.

by Rong Lu, Fang Bian, Jing Lin, Zhitao Su, Yangluowa Qu, Stephen C. Pflugfelder, De-Quan Li

There is a great interest in using epithelium generated in vitro for tissue bioengineering. Mouse 3T3 fibroblasts have been used as a feeder layer to cultivate human epithelia including corneal epithelial cells for more than 3 decades. To avoid the use of xeno-components, we evaluated human fibroblasts as an alternative feeder supporting human corneal epithelial regeneration. Five human fibroblast cell lines were used for evaluation with mouse 3T3 fibroblasts as a control. Human epithelial cells isolated from fresh corneal limbal tissue were seeded on these feeders. Colony forming efficiency (CFE) and cell growth capacity were evaluated on days 5–14. The phenotype of the regenerated epithelia was evaluated by morphology and immunostaining with epithelial markers. cDNA microarray was used to analyze the gene expression profile of the supportive human fibroblasts. Among 5 strains of human fibroblasts evaluated, two newborn foreskin fibroblast cell lines, Hs68 and CCD1112Sk, were identified to strongly support human corneal epithelial growth. Tested for 10 passages, these fibroblasts continually showed a comparative efficiency to the 3T3 feeder layer for CFE and growth capacity of human corneal epithelial cells. Limbal epithelial cells seeded at 1×104 in a 35-mm dish (9.6 cm2) grew to confluence (about 1.87–2.41×106 cells) in 12–14 days, representing 187–241 fold expansion with over 7–8 doublings on these human feeders. The regenerated epithelia expressed K3, K12, connexin 43, p63, EGFR and integrin ß1, resembling the phenotype of human corneal epithelium. DNA microarray revealed 3 up-regulated and 10 down-regulated genes, which may be involved in the functions of human fibroblast feeders. These findings demonstrate that commercial human fibroblast cell lines support human corneal epithelial regeneration, and have potential use in tissue bioengineering for corneal reconstruction.