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    Cornea/External Disease

    Using an in vivo mouse model of ocular injury, scientists from Schepens Eye Research Institute have shown that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) restore corneal transparency by secreting high levels of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF). Their findings suggest that HGF-based treatments may be effective in restoring vision in patients with severely scarred corneas.

    I believe this will open an exciting frontier in the prevention and suppression of corneal opacity and inflammation. As important is the data showing MSCs can accelerate wound repair through epithelialization.

    Investigators used a well-characterized sterile injury model of mouse cornea to determine whether in vivo administration of MSCs leads to high levels of HGF at inflamed injury site. One hour after injury, MSCs were intravenously injected in mice. On day 3 after injury, injured corneas from MSC-injected mice showed significantly higher levels of HGF at both transcript and protein levels compared with injured untreated corneas and normal corneas. To further confirm the role of HGF, the stem cells lost their capacity to inhibit scar formation when HGF expression was silenced.

    Interestingly, the authors found that mice treated with HGF alone was sufficient to restore corneal transparency, an observation that has translational implications for the development of HGF-based therapy. After topical administration of HGF in a mouse model of ocular injury, researchers saw a dramatic reduction in corneal opacification in just 4 to 5 days.

    “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,” said senior author Sunil K. Chauhan, PhD, an investigator at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.