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Keywords:

  • Integrins;
  • Extracellular matrix;
  • Cornea;
  • Stem cell–microenvironment interactions

Abstract

The cornea contains a reservoir of self-regenerating epithelial cells that are essential for maintaining its transparency and good vision. The study of stem cells in this functionally important organ has grown over the past four decades, partly due to the ease with which this tissue is visualized, its accessibility with minimally invasive instruments, and the fact that its stem cells are segregated within a transitional zone between two functionally diverse epithelia. While human, animal, and ex vivo models have been instrumental in progressing the corneal stem cell field, there is still much to be discovered about this exquisitely sensitive window for sight. This review will provide an overview of the human cornea, where its stem cells reside and how components of the microenvironment including extracellular matrix proteins and their integrin receptors are thought to govern corneal stem cell homeostasis. STEM CELLS 2012; 30:100–107.