Preservation solutions for short-term storage of isolated donor corneas for use in penetrating keratoplasty have all been based on tissue culture medium, on the assumption that media designed to maintain the viability of cells at physiological temperatures will also provide suitable conditions for preservation at reduced temperatures. But for hypothermic preservation of some other tissues and organs, when ionic pumps are inhibited, it is unnecessary to support metabolism, and beneficial control of ion and water distribution between intra- and extracellular compartments is achieved by storage in appropriately formulated 'intracellular-type' solutions. We have therefore designed a solution that will restrict ionic imbalances and minimise endothelial cell swelling in corneas during exposure at reduced temperatures. This potassium-rich solution contains the biological pH buffer TES as an impermeant anion and is designated CPTES (corneal-potassium-TES). The structural and functional integrity of rabbit corneas stored at 0 degrees C in CPTES, without the addition of colloid osmotic agents, is compared with that of corneas stored in glutathione bicarbonate Ringers' solution (GBR), an 'extracellular-type' medium formulated for the maintenance of endothelial integrity during in-vitro perfusion at 34 degrees C. Corneas swelled significantly less during storage in CPTES than in GBR and could be stored for five days before reaching the same degree of hydration as corneas stored for only three days in GBR. Gross structural integrity and endothelial ultrastructure were maintained during storage for three and five days in CPTES. The rate of thinning of corneas stored in CPTES was significantly greater than in comparable groups of corneas stored in GBR. However, the efficient dehydration of corneas stored in CPTES was always preceded during perfusion by a brief period of additional swelling which was shown to be an osmotic response during the elution of the buffer compound TES that had permeated the stroma during storage. The omission of calcium or the addition of adenosine and glutathione to the CPTES preservation medium had no detectable effect on the integrity of the endothelium, but the omission of bicarbonate was beneficial, producing significantly higher rates of stromal thinning during normothermic perfusion. Additional benefits for extending storage by including colloid osmotic agents are described in a companion paper.
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