WEDNESDAY, July 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- A new method of enhancing the re-growth of corneal tissue to restore vision offers possible promise to people whose corneas have been damaged by disease, burns or chemicals, researchers report.
The scientists focused on limbal stem cells, which help maintain and regenerate corneal tissue. The loss of limbal stem cells due to disease or injury is one of the leading causes of blindness.
Tissue or cell transplants have been used to help the cornea regenerate. But the results weren't consistent because it wasn't known if any or how many limbal stem cells were in the transplanted tissue or cells, the study authors noted.
For this study, the investigators used a molecule called ABCB5, which is a "marker" -- or sign -- for the hard-to-detect limbal stem cells. Using this method, they zeroed in on limbal stem cells from human donors and used the stem cells to re-grow anatomically correct and fully functional human corneas in mice.