The purposes of this study were to assess the expression patterns of heat shock proteins (Hsps), after eyeball heating or cooling, and to elucidate their relationships with corneal wound healing and intraocular complications after excimer laser treatment. Experimental mice were grouped into three according to local pretreatment type: heating, cooling, and control groups. The preconditioning was to apply saline eyedrops onto the cornea prior to photoablation. Following photoablation, we evaluated corneal wound healing, corneal opacity and lens opacity. Hsp expression patterns were elucidated with Western blot and immunohistochemical staining. The heating and cooling groups recovered more rapidly, and showed less corneal and lens opacity than the control group. In the heating and cooling groups, there were more expressions of Hsps in the cornea and lens than in the control group. These results were confirmed in the Hsp 70.1 knockout mouse model. Our study showed that Hsps were induced by the heating or cooling preconditioning, and appeared to be a major factor in protecting the cornea against serious thermal damage. Induced Hsps also seemed to play an important role in rapid wound healing, and decreased corneal and lens opacity after excimer laser ablation.
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