Corneal xenotransplantation: Where are we standing?

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The search for alternatives to allotransplants is driven by the shortage of corneal donors and is demanding because of the limitations of the alternatives. Indeed, current progress in genetically engineered (GE) pigs, the introduction of gene-editing technology by clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR)-Cas9, and advanced immunosuppressants have made xenotransplantation a possible option for a human trial. Porcine corneal xenotransplantation is considered applicable because the eye is regarded as an immune-privileged site. Furthermore, recent non-human primate studies have shown long-term survival of porcine xenotransplants in keratoplasty. Herein, corneal immune privilege is briefly introduced, and xenogeneic reactions are compared with allogeneic reactions in corneal transplantation. This review describes the current knowledge on special issues of xenotransplantation, xenogeneic rejection mechanisms, current immunosuppressive regimens of corneal xenotransplantation, preclinical efficacy and safety data of corneal xenotransplantation, and updates of the regulatory framework to conduct a clinical trial on corneal xenotransplantation. We also discuss barriers that might prevent xenotransplantation from becoming common practice, such as ethical dilemmas, public concerns on xenotransplantation, and the possible risk of xenozoonosis. Given that the legal definition of decellularized porcine cornea (DPC) lies somewhere between a medical device and a xenotransplant, the preclinical efficacy and clinical trial data using DPC are included. The review finally provides perspectives on the current standpoint of corneal xenotransplantation in the fields of regenerative medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100876
JournalProgress in Retinal and Eye Research
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Corneal transplantation
  • Galα1-3Galβ1-4GlcNAc-R (αGal)
  • Porcine endogenous retrovirus (PERV)
  • Regulatory framework
  • Xenotransplantation
  • Xenozoonosis

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