Human derived feeder fibroblasts for the culture of epithelial cells for clinical use

Aim: To investigate human oral mucosal fibroblasts (HOMF) and human limbal fibroblasts (HLF) as alternatives to murine 3T3 feeder fibroblasts currently used to support epithelial cell expansion for the treatment of limbal epithelial stem cell deficiency. Methods: HLF and HOMF were compared to 3T3 for their ability to support the culture of human limbal epithelial cells (HLE) and human oral mucosal epithelial cells. Results: HOMF, but not HLF, were equivalent to 3T3 in terms of the number of epithelial population doublings achieved. HLE co-cultured with HOMF or 3T3 had similar expression of corneal and putative stem cell markers. Conclusion: HOMF are a suitable and safer feeder fibroblast alternative to 3T3 for the production of epithelial cells for clinical use.