Adult stem cells have allowed scientist to regrow cornea tissue which could help cure blindness
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – The cornea was grown from an adult stem cell, and the scientists behind the project say their work offers hope to burn victims, victims of chemical injury and people with damaging eye diseases.
Using the molecule known as ABCB5, which acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells, the team identified a way to enhance regrowth of corneal tissue. This is the first known example of constructing tissue from an adult-derived human stem cell.
Limbal stem cells are found in the eye’s of basal limbal epithelium, or limbus, and help maintain and regenerate corneal tissue. The loss of this tissue is one of the leading casues of blindness.
Tissue or cell transplants have been used to help corneas regenerate, but until now it was not own whether there were actual limbals stem cells in the grafts and the outcomes were not consistent.
In this study, researchers were able to use antibodies that detected ABCB5 in order to pinpoint the stem cell tissue in dead human donors, which were then used to regrow anatomically correct, fully functional human corneas in mice.
“Limbal stem cells are very rare, and successful transplants are dependent on these rare cells,” said the study’s co-lead author Dr. Bruce Ksander. “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 translational application.”
Co-author Dr. Markus Frank said “ABCB5 allows limbal stem cells to survive, protecting them from apoptosis [programmed cell death].”
Dr. Natasha Frank added that the “mouse model allowed us for the first time to understand the role of ABCB5 in normal development, and should be very important to the stem cell field in general.”