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Stem cell corneal healing mechanism explained

While cases of severe ocular trauma may heal after ophthalmic intervention, they can often result in the formation of opaque scar tissue and damaged vision.Recent research has shown that mesenchymal st cells (MSCs) – which can differentiate into a variety of cells, including bone, cartilage, muscle and fat cells – are capable of returning clarity to scarred corneas. However, the mechanisms behind this repair function have so far rained a mystery.{{quote-A:R-W:450-I:2-Q: These findings are very exciting, and bring us one step closer to our goal of improving vision in patients with severely damaged corneas following ocular injuries, -WHO:Mr Sunil Chauhan, Investigator at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and Assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School}}Now, researchers from the US-based Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear believe they have identified the key factor responsible for promoting wound healing and reducing inflammation when using MSCs.“Our results show that MSCs, in an inflamed environment, secrete high levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), which inhibit scar formation and restore corneal transparency. But if you silence the HGF expression, the st cells lose their capacity to inhibit scar formation,” Mr Sunil Chauhan, an investigator at the Schepens Eye Research Institute and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, explained.“That HGF alone can restore corneal transparency is highly significant, and has trendous translational implications for developing new treatment modalities.”Current treatments for corneal scarring vary from topical steroids to corneal transplantation. However, there are limitations to these treatments, including increased risk of infection and rejection of transplants.With the goal of better understanding why MSCs are capable of restoring clarity to scarred corneas, Schepens Eye Research Institute researchers used an animal model of ocular injury. They observed secretion of high levels of HGF from st cells at the site of injury.Furthermore, the researchers showed that HGF was solely responsible for the restoration of corneal transparency – an observation that was said to hold promise for developing HGF-based therapy for patients.“These findings are very exciting, and bring us one step closer to our goal of improving vision in patients with severely damaged corneas following ocular injuries,” Mr Chauhan stated.