Scientist wins award for LSCD research

October 19, 2011

Ewa Meyer-Blazejewska, PhD, who led research into the use of stem cells from hair follicles to treat an ocular surface disease, received the Young Investigator Award from the journal Stem Cells Oct. 15.

Durham, NC, and Kragujevac, Serbia-Ewa Meyer-Blazejewska, PhD, who led research into the use of stem cells from hair follicles to treat an ocular surface disease, received the Young Investigator Award from the journal Stem Cells Oct. 15.

The $10,000 prize is given annually to an early-career scientist whose paper has been judged to be of worldwide significance by a global jury. This year’s award was presented at a symposium hosted by the University of Kragujevac, Kragujevac, Serbia.

Dr. Meyer-Blazejewska, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany, won the award for her research into limbal stem cell deficiency (LSCD). Current treatments focus on harvesting limbal cells from a patient’s healthy eye or from cadaveric tissue. In her research, Dr. Meyer-Blazejewska considered the potential use of stem cells harvested from hair follicles to reconstruct damaged tissue for patients who have LSCD in both eyes.

“Tissue engineering has become a rapidly growing field of research, and it is expected to reveal the potential for the application of adult stem cells in clinical practice,” Dr. Meyer-Blazejewska said. “I hope the results in our paper will be instrumental for the advancement of research in the areas of stem cell niche, stemness, and differentiation, which will aid in the treatment of LSCD as well as other ocular and non-ocular diseases.”

Dr. Meyer-Blazejewska’s team demonstrated that in the right microenvironment, stem cells from hair follicles have the capacity for cellular differentiation, the process whereby less-specialized cells-in this case, the cells of the corneal epithelial phenotype-become a more-specialized cell type. The team’s results showed an 80% rate of differentiation in mouse eyes following a cell transplant, highlighting the therapeutic potential of these cells.

“Young scientists are vital for advancing stem cell science, providing exciting and essential new insights, and propelling the field of regenerative medicine with new discoveries that impact many kinds of malignant or degenerative disorders,” said Miodrag Stojkovic, PhD, editor of Stem Cells. “As demonstrated in this year’s Young Investigator Award-winning paper . . . these promising new scientists are the life-force for stem cell research.”

The winning paper can be viewed at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/stem.550/abstract.

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