Seeing the light: researchers gain insight into corneal repair mechanism
Hepatocyte growth factor observed to promote healing and reduce inflammation
Following severe ocular trauma involving the cornea, intervention can trigger wound healing but can also result in opaque scar tissue formation and damaged vision. Recent investigations have demonstrated the ability of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) to return clarity to scarred corneas, however, the mechanisms of this process remained unknown.
In a new study, researchers from Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear (MA, USA) have identified MSC-secreted hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) as key to promotion of wound healing and inflammation reduction in preclinical models of corneal injury.
"Our results show that mesenchymal stem cells, in an inflamed environment, secrete high levels of HGF, which inhibit scar formation and restore corneal transparency. But if you silence the HGF expression, the stem cells lose their capacity to inhibit scar formation," explained senior author Sunil Chauhan (Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear). "That HGF alone can restore corneal transparency is highly significant, and has tremendous translational implications for developing new treatment modalities."
The team observed high levels of HGF secretion from MSCs at the site of injury and further demonstrated the factor to be responsible for restoration of corneal transparency. Their findings suggest that HGF-based treatments may be effective in restoring vision in patients with severely scarred corneas, a promising area for future work.
Written by Hannah Wilson
Source: Masschusetts Eye and Ear Press Release www.masseyeandear.org/news/press-releases/2016/09/researchers-shed-light-on-repair-mechanism-for-severe-corneal-injuries