The mind’s eye is like a real eye
The mind’s eye is like a real eye

New Study Sheds Light on the Genetics of Corneal Clarity and Disease

In a study published in PLoS Biology, researchers from the Radboud Institute for Molecular Life Sciences and international collaborators have identified the genetic networks that govern corneal epithelial cell development. This research has implications for the diagnosis and potentially future treatment of vision-impairing corneal diseases.

At the heart of this research lies the discovery of specific transcription factors that act as genetic 'master switches' to maintain the transparency of the cornea, the eye's outermost layer. These findings not only deepen our understanding of visual biology but also open new avenues for  better patient care of corneal diseases.

The team conducted an extensive multi-omics analysis, comparing limbal stem cells (LSCs) in the eye, responsible for the cornea's maintenance, with epidermal keratinocytes, which renew the skin. This comparison has revealed crucial genes that dictate whether a stem cell will contribute to the clear cornea or the non-transparent epidermis.

Among the significant discoveries is the identification of FOSL2, a gene regulated by PAX6 that plays a vital role in corneal opacity and has been linked to various corneal diseases. This insight provides a novel target for corneal disease diagnosis, and it is promising for future drug development.

Understanding the regulatory mechanisms behind LSC differentiation may lead to new therapeutic approaches for corneal opacity and other eye conditions, which could improve the quality of life for individuals with these afflictions.

Literature reference

Smits JGA, Cunha DL, Amini M, Bertolin M, Laberthonnière C, et al. (2023) Identification of the regulatory circuit governing corneal epithelial fate determination and disease. PLOS Biology 21(10): e3002336.

Contact information

For more information, please get in touch with Jo Huiqing Zhou.

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