ABSTRACT: We investigated the effects of the ophthalmic preservatives thimerosal and sorbic acid on the proliferation and survival of rabbit corneal epithelial cells in tissue culture. Normally, explants of corneal epithelium grow vigorously during the first 7 days in culture. With 0.004% thimerosal present in the culture medium, the normal proliferation of corneal cells is suppressed completely. When 0.1% sorbic acid is present, proliferation is delayed and the lifespan of the corneal cells is reduced. After a 1-h exposure to concentrations of thimerosal of 0.0005% or greater, virtually all corneal cells present in established cultures are killed. These results suggest that use of ophthalmic preparations containing these chemicals may affect the metabolic and proliferative capacity of the corneal epithelium adversely.
American journal of optometry and physiological optics 12/1988; 65(11):867-73.