Corneal endothelium

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Corneal endothelium is the innermost layer of the cornea that is comprised of highly differentiated endothelial cells. The major function of the corneal endothelium is to maintain the transparency of the cornea by controlling the hydration of stroma and acting as a barrier that regulates the movement of nutrients into the cornea. Corneal endothelial dysfunctions arise due to a variety of etiology during different stages of life. Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) is a common bilateral late-onset   disorder due to progressive loss of corneal endothelial cells, resulting in corneal edema, blurry vision, and pain. Currently, the only available treatment for FECD is corneal transplantation. While many genetic mutations have been associated with this inherited disorder, the laboratory of Ula V. Jurkunas, MD, at Mass Eye and Ear has delineated the role of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of FECD and the research in her laboratory aims to further understand the molecular mechanism of FECD. The Jurkunas laboratory uses human FECD specimens, normal donor corneas, corneal endothelial cells lines, and mouse models to investigate the precise molecular and cellular processes that are disrupted in FECD. The following outline the focus of Dr. Jurkunas’ research group:

  • Role of DNA damage and repair in endothelial cell death in FECD
  • Interaction of corneal endothelial cells with the extracellular matrix
  • Feasibility of cell therapy as an alternative approach to corneal transplantation
  • Identification of drug targets that could alleviate FECD
  • Role of corneal endothelial progenitors in the regeneration of corneal endothelium

Ula V. Jurkunas, M.D.