Hereditary eye disease treated with investigational gene therapy
Hereditary eye disease treated with investigational gene therapy

Single-cell technology helps researchers advance personalized corneal treatments

Researchers from Radboud University and Tampere University (Finland) have made a significant step forward towards creating effective personalized therapy for corneal damage. Using Single-cell RNA sequencing, researchers have identified markers in stem cells that indicate a high likelihood of future successful corneal stem cell therapy. By selecting stem cells with these markers, high-quality corneal stem cells can be produced consistently. Their findings are published in Stem Cell Reports today.

Corneal damage

Corneal damage is a significant cause of blindness, ranked fourth worldwide. Without proper treatment, affected individuals are at risk of losing their vision. Current corneal transplantation therapies are not optimal, as they are limited by the availability of corneal stem cells from the patient's other healthy eye or donor corneas. Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) which are created from a person’s own tissues can potentially regenerate corneal stem cells, offering a path to personalized treatment. Despite the potential, hiPSC are notorious for their differentiation inconsistency. This makes the regeneration process time consuming and costly, and has been a major obstacle in making personalized corneal therapies widely accessible.

Single-cell RNA sequencing

In a collaborative study by the Skottman (Tampere University, Finland) and Zhou (Radboud University, Radboudumc) research teams, single-cell RNA sequencing was performed to examine how different hiPSC lines develop into corneal stem cells. “By identifying the specific markers that indicate successful differentiation into corneal stem cells, this study provides a reliable method to consistently produce high-quality stem cells. This innovative approach holds promise for personalized corneal treatments, potentially revolutionizing eye care for individuals at risk of vision loss.”, Jo Zhou says.

Future research directions

The next important steps would be to enhance the capability to produce these improved corneal stem cells in large quantities, and to test their functionality in repairing the cornea in vivo, before clinical trials can take place. 

Contact information

For further information, please contact team Science communication via +31 24 361 6000 or media [at] (media[at]ru[dot]nl), or contact Jo Zhou:

  • Molecular Developmental Biology: j.zhou [at] (j[dot]zhou[at]science[dot]ru[dot]nl)
  • Human Genetics: jo.zhou [at] (jo[dot]zhou[at]radboudumc[dot]nl)