Using key tracer molecules, researchers have been able to hunt down elusive cells in the eye capable of regeneration and repair.
They transplanted these regenerative stem cells into mice – creating fully functioning corneas.
Writing in the journal Nature, they say this method may one day help restore the sight of victims of burns and chemical injuries.
Limbal stem cells (LSC) are crucial for healthy eyesight – these cells work to maintain, repair and completely renew our corneas every few weeks.
Without them the cornea – the transparent outermost layer of the eye – would become cloudy and our vision disrupted.
A deficiency of these cells due to disease or damage through injury to the eye are among the commonest reasons behind blindness worldwide.
But the cells have so far been extremely difficult to identify, buried in a matrix of other structures in the limbal part of the eye – the junction between the cornea and the white of the eye (the sclera).