, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 609-619
Date: 04 Jun 2013

Mesenchymal Stem Cells, Nanofiber Scaffolds and Ocular Surface Reconstruction

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Abstract

Ocular surface defects represent one of the most common causes of impaired vision or even blindness. For treatment, keratoplasty represents the first choice. However, if corneal defects are more extensive and associated with a limbal stem cell (LSC) deficiency, corneal transplantation is not a sufficient therapeutic procedure and only viable approach to treatment is the transplantation of LSCs. When the LSC deficiency is a bilateral disorder, autologous LSCs are not available. The use of allogeneic LSCs requires strong immunosuppression, which leads to side-effects, and the treatment is not always effective. The alternative and perspective approach to the treatment of severe ocular surface injuries and LSC deficiency is offered by the transplantation of autologous mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). These cells can be obtained from the bone marrow or adipose tissue of the particular patient, grow well in vitro and can be transferred, using an appropriate scaffold, onto the damaged ocular surface. Here they exert beneficial effects by possible direct differentiation into corneal epithelial cells, by immunomodulatory effects and by the production of numerous trophic and growth factors. Recent experiments utilizing the therapeutic properties of MSCs in animal models with a mechanically or chemically injured ocular surface have yielded promising results and demonstrated significant corneal regeneration, improved corneal transparency and a rapid healing process associated with the restoration of vision. The use of autologous MSCs thus represents a promising therapeutic approach and offers hope for patients with severe ocular surface injuries and LSC deficiency.