Placenta-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) may hold the key to corneal healing, a new study shows. Indian researchers used an ex vivo experimental injury model of post-mortem human corneas and found that MSCs can provide better corneal transparency and lesser fibrotic corneal scarring than surgery.

The team looked at five pairs of post-mortem human corneas, with the eye of each pair randomly assigned to either the case arm or the control arm. All corneas underwent a standardized superficial keratectomy. The case arm, however, received an intrastromal injection of MSCs, while the control received a placebo.

The researchers found the difference in the mean of full-width half maximum, max intensity and red pixel intensity between the cases and the controls were all statistically significant.

The researchers also compared the influence of MSCs on the basic histopathology of the cornea and the immunohistochemistry markers of fibrotic corneal scarring. MSCs extracted from the placenta were isolated and expanded in vitro. Histopathology showed a disorganized Bowman’s layer in the controls compared with the cases.

Rose J, Lalgudi S, Joshua A, et al. An experimental study to test the efficacy of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in reducing corneal scarring in an ex-vivo organ culture model. Exp Eye Res. December 5, 2019. [Epub ahead of print].