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Stem cell-based therapy of corneal epithelial and endothelial diseases.

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Corneal dysfunction is the second leading cause of blindness. Approximately 10 million patients worldwide are affected by some form of corneal disease. More than 50,000 cornea transplants are performed every year, but this procedure is limited by cornea donation availability. Recently, new cell replacement procedures have been developed to treat a variety of corneal diseases. This review will focus on the recent advances in the use of limbal epithelial stem cells (LESCs) to treat corneal epithelial cell deficiency and improvements in replacing dysfunctional corneal endothelial cells (CECs) with exogenous CECs. Several protocols have been developed to differentiate pluripotent stem cells into LESC- or CEC-like cells, potentially yielding an unlimited source for the cell replacement therapy of corneal diseases.

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