The researchers transplanted purified limbal stem cells from adult humans into mice with corneal blindness and checked to see if the corneas had regrown 5 weeks later, as well as 13 months later. They found that the mouse corneas looked normal, with the same thickness and protein expression as corneas in healthy mice.
"I think a very exciting part of the study is that even though there is a lot of evidence that adult stem cells contribute to tissue regeneration, what we see is basically the first evidence that you can take adult stem cells and regrow the organ that's been damaged," Frank said.
The research team next hopes to find a way to replicate limbal stem cells so that a single donor eye can produce enough transplantable cells to help several patients. They will also be partnering with biopharmaceuticals companies to produce commercial qualities of the ABCB5 antibody for humans, and they are planning to further collaborate with co-author Victor Perez, MD, a professor of ophthalmology at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, to move the techniques used in the current study into clinical trials.
"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," said Bruce Ksander, PhD, an associate scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute and co-first author on the study with postdoctoral fellow Paraskevi Kolovou, MD.
|Contact: B.D. Colen|