Background: Gamma-ray irradiation could significantly induce widespread apoptosis in corneas and reduced the allogenicity of donor cornea. And the X-rays may have similar biological effects. The feasibility and effects of X-ray-irradiated corneal lamellae have not been assessed yet.
Methods: Different doses (10 gray unit (Gy), 20 Gy, 50 Gy, 100 Gy) of X-ray irradiated corneal lamellae were collected from SMILE surgery. These corneal lamellae were assessed by physical characterization, hematoxylin and eosin (H-E) staining, Masson’s staining, TdT-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL), cell viability assay and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). We selected the optimum dose (100Gy) to treat the corneal lamellae to be the grafts. The human grafts and fresh allogeneic monkey corneal lamellae were implanted into rhesus monkeys via the small incision femtosecond laser-assisted surgery, respectively. Clinical examinations and the immunostaining were performed after surgery.
Results: There were no significant changes in the transparency of the corneal lamellae, but the absorbency of the corneal lamellae was increased. According to the H-E and Masson’s staining results, irradiation had little impact on the corneal collagen. The TUNEL assay and cell viability assay results showed that 100Gy X-ray irradiation resulted in complete apoptosis in the corneal lamellae, which was also confirmed by TEM observations. In the following animal model study, no immune reactions or severe inflammatory responses occurred, and the host corneas maintained transparency for 24 weeks of observation. And the expression of CD4 and CD8 were negative in the all host corneas.
Conclusion: X-ray irradiated corneal lamellae could serve as a potential material for xenogeneic inlay, and the small incision femtosecond laser-assisted implantation has the potential to become a new corneal transplantation surgical approach.