Rachelle Palchesko, PhD | CV
Bioengineered Corneal Endothelium
Full cornea transplants and related methods such as Descemet’s Membrane Endothelial Keratoplasty (DMEK) are successful in restoring the pumping function of the corneal endothelium (CE), however donor corneas are limited worldwide and endothelial cell loss can recur due to damage incurred during transplantation. Further the non-proliferative nature of corneal endothelial cells in vivo and low proliferative ability in vitro has limited the success of tissue engineering approaches to regenerating the corneal endothelium. There are two main strategies to regenerating the CE, utilizing only cultured corneal endothelial cells, and culturing the CE cells on a scaffold for transplantation. However, most of these approaches are limited based on the amount of viable cells that can be isolated from donor corneas and the compatibility/attachment of the scaffold and/or cells to the posterior side of the stroma. This project aims to address this need by using engineered basement membranes and cultured corneal endothelial cells to mimic the composition and structure of the native CE and DM. A scaffold that closely mimics the DM should provide an environment that increases CE cell growth and viability. The resulting de novo generated CE could then be implanted in a DMEK procedure in place of a donor CE.