Year: 2018, EATB

Authors: Giurgola L.; Gatto C.; Ciciliot S.; D’Amato Tóthová J.

Background: The endothelial cell mortality of the donor corneas is determined qualitatively by the eye bank technicians using the trypan blue staining of the endothelium and visual evaluation of the mortality zones. The present study aimed at developing a quantitative method to determine the endothelial cell mortality based on the trypan blue staining and Image Analysis Using ImageJ software.

Method: Porcine eyes were retrieved at local abattoir, transported to our labs, the cornea was dissected and endothelial cell mortality was immediately assessed. Evaluation of corneas was repeated in five different experiments each including 10 corneas. Endothelial cell mortality was determined by staining the endothelium with trypan blue (TB-S Alchimia S.r.l.) and acquiring stereomicroscopy pictures with 10x magnification. The pictures were analyzed with the Fiji ImageJ software, adopting a customized macro sequence to count blue pixels, corresponding to dead cells, in the central 8-mm diameter area. Surface irregularity of the corneal tissue was compensated during macro sequence optimization phase. Mean percentage of cell mortality was determined for each group of tissues. The normal distribution of percentages of cell mortality within groups was evaluated with Shapiro-Wilk Normality Test and differences between groups was verified with ANOVA one-way analysis of variance.

Results: Customized macro sequence of Fiji ImageJ software provided an accurate and repeatable quantification of the mortality area of corneal endothelium despite the irregular surface of the corneal tissue. The mean endothelial cell mortality was 4.50 % ± 0.94%; the low standard error indicated the repeatability of the method. The distribution of values within groups resulted to be normal according to Shapiro-Wilk Normality Test (p>0.05) and no significant differences were observed between groups based on ANOVA test (p>0.05).

Conclusion: The present study allowed the development of a semi-automatized quantitative method for the measurement of corneal endothelial cell mortality using image analysis with Fiji ImageJ customized macro sequence with optimal method sensibility and repeatability. Additional method optimization will be investigated in order to implement the endothelial cell mortality evaluation within the daily routine of the eye banks.