Corneal reconstruction by stem cells and bioengineering
Department of Biology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland
Abstract: Almost 300 million people are visually impaired worldwide due to various eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and corneal diseases. Notably, ten million people are blind because of severe ocular surface diseases and the majority of cases occur in developing countries. Blinding ocular surface diseases have, however, become treatable by grafting of surface layers, or by full-thickness transplantation of the cornea. As the demand for human corneal tissue for surface reconstruction and transplantation far exceeds the supply, methods are being developed to supplement tissue donation. Xenotransplantation of the cornea or cells from genetically modified pigs may become one of the solutions. Transplantation of limbal stem cells within tissue biopsies, to restore the transparency of the cornea is another remarkable method, which has shown its potential in several clinical studies. The combination of stem cell technology and engineering of biocompatible tissue equivalent, still at preclinical stage, has shown us how synthetic corneal tissue is able to guide cultured corneal stromal stem cells of human origin, to become native-like stroma, the most important layer of the cornea. These findings give hope for a large-quantity production of biomaterial for corneal reconstruction. As such, clinical ophthalmologists should become more familiar with the methods of laboratory science.
Keywords: eye, grafting, keratoplasty, xenotransplantation, cell reservoir, biocompatible tissue equivalent
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