Washington: Scientists have discovered a way to regrow human corneal tissue using hard-to-find limbal stem cells known as ABCB5 molecule.
Limbal stem cells reside in the eye's basal limbal epithelium or limbus and help maintain and regenerate corneal tissue. Their loss due to injury or disease is one of the leading causes of blindness.
The researchers were able to use antibodies detecting ABCB5 to zero in on the stem cells in tissue from deceased human donors and used them to regrow anatomically correct, fully functional human corneas in mice.
Bruce Ksander, Ph.D. said that this finding would now make it much easier to restore the corneal surface and it was a very good example of basic research moving quickly to a translational application.
This research is also one of the first known examples of constructing a tissue from an adult-derived human stem cell.
Markus Frank said that ABCB5 allowed limbal stem cells to survive and protected them from apoptosis (programmed cell death).
The research is published in Nature.