4 July 2014
US scientists have developed a groundbreaking method of regrowing human corneal tissue, opening up new possibilities for future corrective eye surgery procedures.
A collaboration between a number of organisations in Boston, the research project found a molecule called ABCB5 that acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells. These cells help to maintain and regenerate corneal tissue, and their loss due to injury or disease is one of the leading causes of blindness.
By utilising antibodies to detect ABCB5, the team was able to track down sources of the stem cells in donors and use them to regrow anatomically correct, fully functional human corneas.
This research is one of the first known examples of constructing a tissue from an adult-derived human stem cell.
Dr Bruce Ksander, co-lead author on the study, said: "This finding will now make it much easier to restore the corneal surface. It's a very good example of basic research moving quickly to a translational application."
Corneal transplants are used to improve sight, relieve pain and treat severe infection or damage to the eye. However, there is a shortage of donated corneas in the UK, making this stem cell research an encouraging development.
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