The first successful penetrating keratoplasty in a human was performed by Eduard Zirm in 1905. In 1935, V. P. Filatov was the first to report successful storage of whole eyeglobes at 4°C. The opportunity to store corneal tissue is crucial for extensive use of keratoplasty as treatment for corneal blindness.
Since the endothelium′s importance for corneal function has been known for the last five decades, most research performed on corneal storage media has focused on the preservation of the donor endothelium. As an intact epithelium also is important for graft survival, further knowledge is needed regarding better preservation of the epithelium. The effect of corneal storage on keratocyte viability is still not certain.
At present, hypotherm storage, mainly Optisol-GS, and organ culture are the most frequently used storage techniques. They seem to result in similar graft survival, but differ in maximum storage time, technical aspects, tissue evaluation possibilities and microbiological safety. Organ culture seems to offer several advantages, yet the use of commercial fetal calf serum gives concern regarding the possible transfer of unknown microbiological agents.
Finally, recent advantages in preservation of cultured corneal/limbal epithelia may increase the availability of this tissue and therefore increase treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency.
It remains to be shown whether further improvements in storage methology also can bring other fields of regenerative medicine forward by improving the availability and safety of transplantation of cultured cells.