The role of hepatocyte growth factor in corneal wound healing
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a glycoprotein produced by mesenchymal cells and operates as a key molecule for tissue generation and renewal. During corneal injury, HGF is primarily secreted by stromal fibroblasts and promotes epithelial wound healing in a paracrine manner. While this mesenchymal-epithelial interaction is well characterized in various organs and the cornea, the role of HGF in corneal stromal and endothelial wound healing is understudied. In addition, HGF has been shown to play an anti-fibrotic role by inhibiting myofibroblast generation and subsequent production of a disorganized extracellular matrix and tissue fibrosis. Therefore, HGF represents a potential therapeutic tool in numerous organs in which myofibroblasts are responsible for tissue scarring. Corneal fibrosis can be a devastating sequela of injury and can result in corneal opacification and retrocorneal membrane formation leading to severe vision loss. In this article, we concisely review the available literature regarding the role of HGF in corneal wound healing. We highlight the influence of HGF on cellular behaviors in each corneal layer. Additionally, we suggest the possibility that HGF may represent a therapeutic tool for interrupting dysregulated corneal repair processes to improve patient outcomes.