Translational Research

Our translational research laboratory endeavors to bring breakthroughs in stem cell biology and tissue engineering to clinical ophthalmology and reconstructive surgery. Over 6 million people worldwide are afflicted with corneal blindness, usually caused by chemical and thermal burns, ocular cicatricial pemphigoid, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, microbial infections, or chronic inflammation. These injuries often result in corneal vascularization, conjunctivalization, scarring, and opacification from limbal epithelial stem cell (LSC) deficiency (LSCD), for which there is currently no durable treatment. Bilateral LSCD is particular devastating not only because of lost quality of life and social productivity, but because unlike most retinal diseases that affect the aged, LSCD largely affects the relatively young. The most promising cure for bilateral LSCD is finding an autologous source of limbal epithelial cells for transplantation. Utilizing recent advances in the field of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), our research aims to create a reliable and renewable source of limbal epithelial cells for potential use in treating human eye diseases. These cells will be grown on resorbable biomatrices to generate stable transplantable corneal tissue. These studies will serve as the basis for human clinical trials and make regenerative medicine a reality for those with sight-threatening disease. On a broader level, this experimental approach could serve as a paradigm for the creation of other transplantable tissue for use throughout the body. Stem cell biology has the potential to influence every field of medicine and will revolutionize the way we perform surgery.

Research of Past and Current Members