The in vivo quiescent corneal stroma keratocytes need to be transformed to activated state in order to obtain sufficient number of cells either for monolayer evaluation or corneal stroma reconstruction. This study aimed to investigate the phenotypic characterization of corneal stromal cells during culture expansion from the limbal region of the cornea. Isolated corneal keratocytes from limbal tissue of New Zealand White Strain rabbits' corneas (n = 6) were culture expanded until three passages. Keratocytes morphology was examined daily with viability, growth rate, number of cell doubling and population doubling time were recorded at each passage. The expression of collagen type 1, aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), lumican and alpha smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) were detected by RT-PCR. Immunocytochemistry was also used to detect ALDH, α-SMA, collagen type I and Cytokeratin-3 (CK3). Growth kinetic study revealed that the growth rate was low at the initial passage but increase to about two folds with concomitant reduction in population doubling time in later passages. Freshly isolated and cultured keratocytes expressed collagen type 1, ALDH and lumican but α-SMA expression was absent. However, α-SMA was expressed along with the other genes during culture expansion. Keratocytes at P1 expressed all the proteins except CK3. These results suggest that cultured keratocytes maintained most of the gene expression profile of native keratocytes while the emergence of α-SMA in serial passages showed a mix population of various phenotypes. The phenotypic characterization of monolayer keratocytes provides useful information before reconstruction of bioengineered tissue or in vitro pharmaceutical applications.
Animal-derivative free reagents are preferred in skin cell culture for clinical applications. The aim of this study was to compare the performance and effects between animal-derived trypsin and recombinant trypsin for skin cells culture and expansion. Full thickness human skin was digested in 0.6 % collagenase for 6 h to liberate the fibroblasts, followed by treatment with either animal-derived trypsin; Trypsin EDTA (TE) or recombinant trypsin; TrypLE Select (TS) to liberate the keratinocytes. Both keratinocytes and fibroblasts were then culture-expanded until passage 2. Trypsinization for both cell types during culture-expansion was performed using either TE or TS. Total cells yield was determined using a haemocytometer. Expression of collagen type I, collagen type III (Col-III), cytokeratin 10, and cytokeratin 14 genes were quantified via RT-PCR and further confirmed with immunocytochemical staining. The results of our study showed that the total cell yield for both keratinocytes and fibroblasts treated with TE or TS were comparable. RT-PCR showed that expression of skin-specific genes except Col-III was higher in the TS treated group compared to that in the TE group. Expression of proteins specific to the two cell types were confirmed by immunocytochemical staining in both TE and TS groups. In conclusion, the performance of the recombinant trypsin is comparable with the well-established animal-derived trypsin for human skin cell culture expansion in terms of cell yield and expression of specific cellular markers.