The self renewal capability of limbal epithelial stem (LEST) cells is fundamental to the maintenance and healing of corneal epithelium. Limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD), due to dysfunction or loss of LEST cells, therefore presents as persistent epithelial defects, corneal vascularization, conjunctivalization etc. Stem cell-based therapy, in its simplest form - limbal autograft, has been used successfully for more than a decade. For bilateral LSCD, similar approaches with limbal allografts have been unsuccessful largely due to strong immune rejection. Therefore, as an alternate strategy for treating bilateral LSCD, ex vivo expansion of the remaining LEST cells or autologous stem cells sourced from other potential sites is being explored. Different culture systems (with and without xenobiotic supplements) using substrates like amniotic membrane or fibrin gels have been used successfully for ex vivo LEST cell maintenance and reproduction by imitating the stem cell niche. This paper is organized into sections reviewing the LEST cells, LSCD and various stem cell-based approaches for treating LSCD and discussing future direction and challenges.
- Limbal autograft
- Limbal epithelial stem (LEST)
- Limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD)
ASJC Scopus subject areas