The prevailing hypothesis for the existence and healing of the avascular corneal epithelium is that this layer of cells are continually produced by stem cells in the limbus and transported onto the cornea to mature into corneal epithelium. In the event that the cornea is damaged and the limbal stem cell population is severely reduced, this condition known as Limbal Stem Cell Deficiency and can lead to blindness. There are numerous treatments but most have high long term failure rates. Most treatment methods include the transplantation of limbal stem cells into damaged limbus with hope of repopulating the region and regenerating at healthy corneal epithelium.
Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is well known for its high resolution in vivo images. A bespoke OCT has been built to investigate the trajectories of these limbal stem cells after transplantation to see whether if they do repopulate the damaged limbus or not.
In the experimentation magneto-labelling was used to track the limbal stem cells. For the magneto-labelling a mixture of limbal stem cells and cornea epithelium are cultured with super paramagnetic iron (Fe3O4) nanoparticles (20-30nm in size) for 24hours, to allow for uptake. The cells are then transplanted onto the denuded cornea. The transplanted cell mixture with the encapsulated magnetic nanoparticles is actuated with an external magnetic field 0.08T leading to a phase modulation on the signal. A Phase sensitive Magneto-motive OCT is used to locate the transplanted cells. The location of the cells with embed SPIOs were located both in 2D and 3D.
Joseph Boadi, Stephen Matcher, Sheila MacNeil, and Virender S. Sangwan, "System for tracking transplanted limbal epithelial stem cells in the treatment of corneal stem cell deficiency
(Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9711, Imaging, Manipulation, and Analysis of Biomolecules, Cells, and Tissues IX, 97111G (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 17, 2016; Published: 27 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2211308.4848767218001.
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