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Accelerated corneal graft rejection in baby rats
  1. Johannes Schwartzkopff,
  2. Moritz Berger,
  3. Florian Birnbaum,
  4. Daniel Böhringer,
  5. Thomas Reinhard
  1. University Eye Hospital, Freiburg, Germany
  1. Correspondence to Dr Johannes Schwartzkopff, University Eye Hospital, Killianstrasse 5, D-79106 Freiburg, Germany; johannes.schwartzkopff{at}


Background Penetrating keratoplasty in infants has a very poor outcome compared to adults. It is of intrinsic interest to gain insight into the still unknown immunological mechanisms of graft failure because any form of uncorrected corneal opacity leads to amblyopia.

Methods Allogeneic keratoplasty was performed between Lewis and Fisher rats. The recipients' ages were 10 and 3 weeks, respectively. All experiments were controlled syngeneically. Survival rates were calculated and cellular infiltrates analysed histologically.

Results Median graft survival times were 15 days in old recipients and 9 days in young recipients (p<0.01). There were fewer infiltrating cells in the younger rats than in the older ones on the day of rejection. Despite the fact that T cells dominated there were significantly more NK cells in young recipients at all time points after transplantation when compared to old recipients.

Conclusions An animal model has been established that shows similar rejection kinetics as in children, that is corneal graft failure occurs sooner in young rats. Already little infiltration was sufficient to reject a corneal allograft. The dominance of infiltrating NK cells and the vigorous rejection process suggest an involvement of the innate immune system in this process.

  • Baby rat
  • graft rejection
  • penetrating keratoplasty
  • NK cell
  • cornea
  • immunology
  • inflammation
  • experimental & animal models
  • child health (paediatrics)

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  • Funding Ernst-und-Berta Grimmke Stiftung, Vogelsanger Weg 49; Postfach 101012, 40470 Düsseldorf, Germany.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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