Aim or Purpose: To evaluate the use of autologous bone marrow derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs) to treat cornea stromal defect in a rabbit model.

Methods: A non-randomized interventional controlled animal study involving twenty one adult New Zealand white rabbits. Corneal deep lamellar dissections were created in three groups of rabbits and treated accordingly. Group I; Autologous bone marrow derived MSCs with autologous fibrin and human amniotic membrane. Group II; Autologous fibrin with human amniotic membrane without MSCs. Group III; No treatment. Clinical outcome was evaluated by corneal re-epithelization, corneal opacity, corneal thickness and histology.

Results: BM-MSCs were successfully isolated from bone marrow of seven rabbits based on the adherence property of the cells to the plastic of the cell culture plate. At day 60 corneal thicknesses was significantly thicker in Group I. The localization of PKH26 labeled BM-MSCs showed an increase in cell density at the transplanted site, proving its role in cornea stromal regeneration. Although the cornea clarity was not achieved in this study, we believe that cornea stromal remodeling requires many months to years to regain its original optical quality.

Conclusion: Locally transplanted BM-MSCs may be a useful source for cornea stromal regeneration. The use of autologous BM-MSCs offers a promising option for treating corneal disorder without the risk of immune-rejection and calcification.