RESEARCH - KEY RESEARCH AREAS - CELL TRANSPLANTATION

Corneal    Human Stem Cells    Retinal Progenitors    Retinal Epithelial Transplantation

Corneal Limbal Stem Cells

The cornea on the front surface of the eye is our window to the world. The integrity and functionality of the outermost epithelium is essential for corneal transparency and therefore vision. The corneal epithelium is maintained by a population of limbal epithelial stem cells (LESC’s) which reside at the junction (known as the limbus) between the corneal and neighbouring conjunctival epithelium. LESC’s can be depleted by chemical burn injury or disease causing painful blindness. One example is aniridia which is an inherited eye disease caused by dose deficiency of the gene responsible for eye development (pax-6). Whilst this disease causes a number of ocular problems, LESC failure tends to be responsible for the onset of blindness in the children affected by this condition.

Our goal is to understand the biology of LESCs and the niche environment in which they live in health and disease. Specific avenues of research include non-invasive LESC niche imaging in humans, characterisation of the LESC niche (biological and physical) and the development of a gene therapy strategy for aniridia. One of our key achievements has been the establishment of the Cells for Sight cultured LESC therapy programme. This involves harvesting LESCs from a small biopsy, if available, from the patient’s healthy eye, or from cadaveric donor tissue. LESCs are isolated and cultured on human amniotic membrane in a state-of-the-art cleanroom facility in compliance with the EU Tissues and Cells Directive and Human Tissue Authority license. Approximately 70% of the patients treated with this therapy at Moorfields Eye Hospital have experienced improved vision and ocular comfort. Our goal is to utilise this expertise to offer in the future further cell-based therapies currently being researched for blinding eye diseases and other areas of regenerative medicine.

IO researchers working in this area:

Professor Robin Ali
Dr Julie Daniels
Mr John K Dart
Mr Steven J Tuft


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