Stem cells of the skin and cornea: their clinical applications in regenerative medicine

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The use of stem cells is of great interest for the treatment of various pathologies and ultimately for the restoration of organ function. Progress pointing towards future treatments of skin and corneal epithelial stem cell defects are reviewed, including the transplantation of living tissue-engineered substitutes.

Recent findings

This article focuses on substitutes optimized for permanent replacement of skin and cornea. New skin substitutes for burn care are currently under development. More complex tissue-engineered skin substitutes in which stroma, adipose tissue, capillaries, and neurons are combined with the epithelium are being developed. Some dermal/epidermal substitutes have been applied to the treatment of patients. Cultured corneal epithelial cells have been characterized and more complete corneal substitutes are being designed. Long-term clinical results on the transplantation of cultured corneal stem cells for the treatment of limbal stem cell deficiency have been reported.

Summary

Advances in tissue engineering for the development of substitutes that will benefit patients suffering from skin or corneal stem cell deficiencies are reviewed. These products are often a combination of cells, scaffolds and other factors. Key considerations in the development of corneal and skin substitutes for clinical applications are discussed.

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