The study aims to evaluate the usefulness of lutein/trypan blue vital dye for the staining of corneal tissues and endothelium–Descemet membrane (EDM) for Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty (DMEK).
Sixteen human corneal tissues (Eye Bank, Rome, Italy) were used. Corneal endothelium was tested at 25 s (T0), 1 min (T1), 2 min (T2), and 4 min (T4) from dye addition. Staining intensity and cell counting were compared. Stripped EDM was analyzed for selected apoptotic (AP, caspases, BCL2, BAX) and differentiation (VEGF-A, TGF-β1RI, SMAD3/7, SMA) targets and changes in target expression. Protein extracts were analyzed through SDS-PAGE/IB.
Although trypan blue staining produced the same color intensity of lutein/trypan blue dye in half the time, lutein/trypan blue reached a good and adequate color intensity at T4, which persisted even on excised and washed EDM grafts. Lutein/trypan blue-stained EDM showed a reduced number of blue-stained cells and AP immunoreactivity was significantly reduced in the same samples. An increased BCL2 transcript and a reduced BAX transcript were detected in lutein/trypan blue-stained EDM. No significant changes were observed for the main effector caspases (3/9) upon both treatments and the target genes representative of endothelial cell trans-differentiation (TGF-β1RI, SMAD3/7, SMA). A trend in vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A) regulation was observed in lutein/trypan blue-treated EDM grafts.
Obtained results suggest that lutein/trypan blue dye deserves attention in the DMEK field and support the potential routine use of this dye as a valid alternative to trypan blue for all procedures devoted to the assessment of endothelial cell viability and visualization of EDM graft before DMEK grafting.
The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s00417-022-05909-x.