Roles of limbal microvascular net and limbal stroma in regulating maintenance of limbal epithelial stem cells
Among all adult somatic stem cells, those of the corneal epithelium are unique in their exclusive location in a defined limbal structure termed Palisades of Vogt. As a result, surgical engraftment of limbal epithelial stem cells with or without ex vivo expansion has long been practiced to restore sights in patients inflicted with limbal stem cell deficiency. Nevertheless, compared to other stem cell examples, relatively little is known about the limbal niche, which is believed to play a pivotal role in regulating self-renewal and fate decision of limbal epithelial stem cells. This review summarizes relevant literature and formulates several key questions to guide future research into better understanding of the pathogenesis of limbal stem cell deficiency and further improvement of the tissue engineering of the corneal epithelium by focusing on the limbal niche.