Regenerative therapy for the Cornea.Prog Retin Eye Res. 2021 Sep 14 [Online ahead of print]PR
The cornea is the outmost layer of the eye, unique in its transparency and strength. The cornea not only transmits the light essential for vision, also refracts light, giving focus to images. Each of the three layers of the cornea has properties essential for the function of vision. Although the epithelium can often recover from injury quickly by cell division, loss of limbal stem cells can cause severe corneal surface abnormalities leading to corneal blindness. Disruption of the stromal extracellular matrix and loss of cells determining this structure, the keratocytes, leads to corneal opacity. Corneal endothelium is the inner part of the cornea without self-renewal capacity. It is very important to maintain corneal dehydration and transparency. Permanent damage to the corneal stroma or endothelium can be effectively treated by corneal transplantation; however, there are drawbacks to this procedure, including a shortage of donors, the need for continuing treatment to prevent rejection, and limits to the survival of the graft, averaging 10-20 years. There exists a need for new strategies to promote regeneration of the stromal structure and restore vision. This review highlights critical contributions in regenerative medicine with the aim of corneal reconstruction after injury or disease. These approaches include corneal stromal stem cells, corneal limbal stem cells, embryonic stem cells, and other adult stem cells, as well as induced pluripotent stem cells. Stem cell-derived trophic factors in the forms of secretomes or exosomes for corneal regeneration are also discussed. Corneal sensory nerve regeneration promoting corneal transparency is discussed. This article provides description of the up-to-date options for corneal regeneration and presents exciting possible avenues for future studies toward clinical applications for corneal regeneration.