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The transition zone as corneal endothelial transplants

84 months
Approved budget:
Dr Jie Zhang
Health issue:
Proposal type:
Emerging Researcher First Grant
Lay summary
The clear window at the front of the eye is the cornea and cells on the inner layer, the endothelium, have extremely limited ability to renew themselves and excessive loss through trauma or disease may result in blindness. Current treatment is only by corneal transplantation (>300 per year in New Zealand). Unfortunately, human donor cornea supply is limited and alternatives are required for the timely treatment of common corneal endothelial diseases. Adult stem cells have recently been identified in the ‘transition zone’ in the periphery of the corneal endothelium. We aim to determine the potential of these cells for corneal endothelial transplants by characterising the ability of the transition zone to self-renew and regenerate endothelial cells in culture, by analysing endothelial injury recovery in diseased endothelial-transition zone co-culture, and via in vivo models. Theoretically, using transition zone cells each future human donor cornea could provide grafts for several transplants.