Repairing the corneal epithelium using limbal stem cells or alternative cell-based therapies
Taylor and Francis Ltd
School of Medical and Health Sciences
Introduction: The corneal epithelium is maintained by limbal stem cells (LSCs) that reside in the basal epithelial layer of the tissue surrounding the cornea termed the limbus. Loss of LSCs results in limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD) that can cause severe visual impairment. Patients with partial LSCD may respond to conservative therapies designed to rehabilitate the remaining LSCs. However, if these conservative approaches fail or, if complete loss of LSCs occurs, transplantation of LSCs or their alternatives is the only option. While a number of clinical studies utilizing diverse surgical and cell culture techniques have shown favorable results, a universal cure for LSCD is still not available. Knowledge of the potential risks and benefits of current approaches, and development of new technologies, is essential for further improvement of LSCD therapies.
Areas covered: This review focuses on cell-based LSCD treatment approaches ranging from current available clinical therapies to preclinical studies of novel promising applications.
Expert opinion: Improved understanding of LSC identity and development of LSC expansion methods will influence the evolution of successful LSCD therapies. Ultimately, future controlled clinical studies enabling direct comparison of the diverse employed approaches will help to identify the most effective treatment strategies.