TIME Science

New Technique Creates Corneas in Mice Using Adult Human Stem Cells

Injured Cornea
Getty Images Wounded Cornea

The discovery is one of the first known examples of tissues being created from adult human stem cells

Scientists may have discovered a way to regrow human corneas by implanting stem cells into mice, providing hope to those with degenerative eye diseases and victims of chemical or thermal burns.

The degradation of limbal stem cells — cells that help repair corneal tissue — is the most common cause of blindness. According to the study released in the journal Nature, researchers used antibodies to target a molecule called ABCB5, which had never been found on limbal stem cells until now.

Scientists used the tracing molecule to detect the elusive limbal stem cells deep inside the limbus, which is an area between the white portion of the eye and the cornea. Researchers then successfully transplanted the limbal stem cells from deceased donors into mice to create fully formed human corneas.

“The mouse model allowed us for the first time to understand the role of ABCB5 in normal development, and should be very important to the stem cell field in general,” said Dr. Natasha Frank, of the VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Although the study has rather broad implications, co-lead author Dr. Bruce Ksander, of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, admitted that it didn’t guarantee sight for all blind patients. “Limbal stem cells are very rare, and successful transplants are dependent on these rare cells,” he said.

Tap to read full story

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com


Dear TIME Reader,

As a regular visitor to TIME.com, we are sure you enjoy all the great journalism created by our editors and reporters. Great journalism has great value, and it costs money to make it. One of the main ways we cover our costs is through advertising.

The use of software that blocks ads limits our ability to provide you with the journalism you enjoy. Consider turning your Ad Blocker off so that we can continue to provide the world class journalism you have become accustomed to.

The TIME Team