The cornea is an optically clear tissue permitting light transmission into the eye. The stroma is the thickest layer of the cornea and corneal transparency depends upon the organization of the collagen matrix in the stroma which is produced by specialized cells called keratocytes.
Corneal dystrophy can affect different layers of the cornea but in the majority of dog breeds the stromal layer is affected. In corneal stromal dystrophy abnormal material is deposited in the stroma which affects transparency. Very little is understood about the causes of disease which can affect both eyes and lead to recurrent ulcerations as well as visual impairment. This can therefore be a painful condition for which there is no effective treatment.
Corneal stromal dystrophy occurs in many dog breeds with up to 15% of dogs in some breeds being affected.It is believed to be an inherited condition however the genetic mutation(s) responsible have not been identified and may vary between breeds.
A fresh approach is needed to support investigation of the genetics and cell biology of canine corneal dystrophy.
We have recently established a new three year PhD project in collaboration with Professor Julie Daniels, University College London, to establish the methods to make dog corneal keratocytes in the laboratory from both stem cells which reside in the cornea (corneal stromal stem cells) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The production of keratocytes from stem cells will provide us with a novel tool to “study the disease in a dish” and understand why corneal stromal cell dystrophy occurs and how it may be prevented. It may also provide a source of cells for future transplantation to dogs suffering from corneal diseases or injuries.
We are grateful to the owners of dogs who have donated tissues to this project, without which the study would not be possible. If you would like further information on this research please contact Christiane Kafarnik at email@example.com.
Dog corneal stromal stem cells isolated from eyes post-mortem, cultured in the laboratory and stained with markers of stem cells.