Oral epithelial cells were recently shown to be able to differentiate into corneal epithelium, and the efficacy of cultured autologous oral mucosal epithelial cells (CAOMEC) has been suggested by the presence of epithelium replacement. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the treatment outcome in limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) by adding CAOMEC to regular amniotic membrane (AM) treatment.

Material and methods:
Eyes with LSCD were randomized to two groups to undergo either autologous oral mucosal epithelial cell sheet (CAOMECS) combined with AM transplantation (A group) or AM transplantation alone (B group). Clinical outcome measures were corneal epithelium healing, best corrected visual acuity, symblepharon, corneal transparency, corneal neovascularization and ocular surface inflammation.

The normal corneal epithelialization rate in group A (73.33%) was higher than that in group B (35.48%), and the average healing time was shorter (3.45 ±2.12 weeks vs. 4.64 ±1.63 weeks). The symblepharon in the above two groups was improved in the first 3 months after surgery, but after 6 months, part of the B group had recurrence. In improving corneal transparency, group A has obvious advantages. Corneal neovascularization (CNV) was improved to some extent in the first 3 months after surgery, but group A (1.47 ±0.64) was better than group B (1.94 ±0.85) after 6 months. Both groups can improve the inflammatory state to some extent.

The transplantation of CAOMECS offers a viable and safe alternative in the reconstruction of a stable ocular surface. The effect is better than that of traditional AM transplantation, mainly in promoting corneal epithelialization, improving ocular surface structure, and reducing fiber and vascular infiltration.

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