Growing an artificial cornea from adult stem cells
Supervisor: Dr Nigel Fullwood
Potentially millions of people around the world could benefit from research into develop an artificial cornea. The cornea is the transparent, outer window of the eye. It is just half a millimeter thick and acts as a powerful lens, focusing light on the retina. There are many causes of cornea disease, such as inherited conditions, the effects of ultra violet light, infections, accidents and a whole range of auto-immune conditions - all of which can cause blindness. Cornea transplants are currently performed using human donor corneas. But not all conditions are treatable in this way, and in some countries, such as India and China, people are reluctant to donate corneas for transplants. Even in the UK, there is usually a wait of several months before a donor cornea becomes available. This project would involve using new technology to use the corneal stem cells to grow an artificial cornea in the laboratory, a technique called tissue engineering. We have already achieved this for the corneal epithelium and this technique is being used to treat patients clinically for corneal stem cell disease. This project will involve re-growing the corneal stroma and corneal endothelium in culture. It will involve the isolation and growth of corneal stroma and endothelial stem cells, antibody labelling techniques and microscopy. The project would involve close collaboration with the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and Kyoto Medical University in Japan.