Understanding cornea epithelial stem cells and stem cell deficiency: Lessons learned using vertebrate model systems

Mohd Tayyab Adil, Jonathan J. Henry

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Animal models have contributed greatly to our understanding of human diseases. Here, we focus on cornea epithelial stem cell (CESC) deficiency (commonly called limbal stem cell deficiency, LSCD). Corneal development, homeostasis and wound healing are supported by specific stem cells, that include the CESCs. Damage to or loss of these cells results in blindness and other debilitating ocular conditions. Here we describe the contributions from several vertebrate models toward understanding CESCs and LSCD treatments. These include both mammalian models, as well as two aquatic models, Zebrafish and the amphibian, Xenopus. Pioneering developments have been made using stem cell transplants to restore normal vision in patients with LSCD, but questions still remain about the basic biology of CESCs, including their precise cell lineages and behavior in the cornea. We describe various cell lineage tracing studies to follow their patterns of division, and the fates of their progeny during development, homeostasis, and wound healing. In addition, we present some preliminary results using the Xenopus model system. Ultimately, a more thorough understanding of these cornea cells will advance our knowledge of stem cell biology and lead to better cornea disease therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23411
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Xenopus
  • cornea epithelial stem cells
  • disease models
  • limbal stem cell deficiency
  • lineage tracing and corneal wound healing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology


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