, Volume 331, Issue 1, pp 135-143
Date: 16 Aug 2007

Biological principals and clinical potentials of limbal epithelial stem cells

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Abstract

In this review, we describe a population of adult stem cells that are currently being successfully used in the clinic to treat blinding ocular surface disease, namely limbal epithelial stem cells (LESC). The function and characteristics of LESC and the challenges faced in making use of their therapeutic potential will be examined. The cornea on the front surface of the eye provides our window on the world. The consistency and functionality of the outer-most corneal epithelium is essential for vision. A population of LESC are responsible for replenishing the epithelium throughout life by providing a constant supply of daughter cells that replace those constantly removed from the ocular surface during normal wear and tear and following injury. LESC deficiency results in corneal inflammation, opacification, vascularisation and severe discomfort. The transplantation of cultured LESC is one of only a few examples of the successful use of adult stem cell therapy in patients. The clinical precedence for the use of stem cell therapy and the ready accessibility of a transparent stem cell niche make the cornea a unique model for the study of adult stem cells in health and disease.

The authors thank the Special Trustees of Moorfields Eye Hospital (J.T.D.) and the BBSRC (M.N.) for financial support.