PhD candidate on a cell therapy for cornea regeneration at the MERLN Institute for Technology-Inspired Regenerative Medicine, Maastricht University

Updated: 4 months ago
Deadline: today

The cornea – our clear window to the world – undergoes constant renewal and regeneration to maintain a clear, uniform surface. Epithelial cells are continuously shed from the cornea, requiring a steady supply of cells from a small population of limbal stem cells (LSCs), located at the edge of the cornea. In case of minor injury, the inherent regenerative capacity of LSCs can effectively repair the epithelium. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. For example, if the limbus or LSCs are damaged following severe injury or congenital deficiency, the complete or partial loss of LSCs causes intense pain and chronic inflammation, allowing the opaque conjunctiva to grow over the cornea, resulting in blindness in the most severe cases.

Globally, ten million individuals suffer from bilateral visual impairment or blindness due to a corneal pathology. The societal burden is substantial given its impact on employment, quality of life and related caretaking requirements. For both the individual patients and the wider society, there is an urgent need to develop therapies to regenerate the cornea and prevent blindness.

Our team was recently awarded a ZonMw (Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development) Open Competition grant to develop a new therapy to regenerate the corneal epithelium based on the transdifferentiation of other epithelial cells from the patient. This project is a collaboration with the laboratory of Dr Jo Zhou (Radboud UMC, Nijmegen), whose team will lead the mapping of the molecular blueprint for transdifferentiation. The successful candidate will work on a strategy to induce and validate successful transdifferentiation to LSC-like cells.

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