Scientists design novel approach for corneal stem cells

December 2, 2013

Researchers in the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute have developed and tested a novel procedure to prepare human amniotic membrane for use as a scaffold for specialized stem cells used to treat some corneal diseases.

Los Angeles-Researchers in the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute here have developed and tested a novel procedure to prepare human amniotic membrane for use as a scaffold for specialized stem cells used to treat some corneal diseases.

This new procedure, outlined in a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE, may accelerate research and clinical applications for stem cell corneal transplantation. This membrane serves as a foundation that supports the growth of stem cells in order to graft them onto the cornea.

An approved biological foundation for cultured stem cells is the human amniotic membrane, a thin but sturdy film that separates the fetus from the placenta. For the best growth of stem cells, amniotic cells need to be removed by chemical agents. The existing methods for removing these cells from this membrane are not standardized, leave behind amniotic cells, and may cause unwanted loss of some of the membrane components.

The amniotic cell removal method created at Cedars-Sinai takes less than 1 minute and ensures virtually complete amniotic cell removal and preservation of amniotic membrane components, and also supports the overall growth of various stem and tissue cells.

"We believe that this straightforward and relatively fast procedure would allow easier standardization of amniotic membrane as a valuable stem cell support and improve the current standard of care in corneal stem cell transplantation," said lead author Alexander Ljubimov, PhD, director of the Eye Program at the Cedars-Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute. "This new method may provide a better method for researchers, transplant corneal surgeons and manufacturing companies alike."

"The amniotic membrane has many beneficial properties and provides an attractive framework to grow tissue and stem cells for regenerative medicine transplantations, especially in replacing missing stem cells in the cornea," added Mehrnoosh Saghizadeh Ghiam, PhD, a research scientist in the Regenerative Medicine Institute's Eye Program and assistant professor in the department of Biomedical Sciences. "Our method for preparing this scaffold for cell expansion is and may streamline clinical applications of cell therapies."

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