Stem cells are present in all self-reviewing tissues and have unique properties. The ocular surface is made up of two distinct types of epithelial cells, constituting the conjunctival and the corneal epithelia. These epithelia are stratified, squamous and non-keratinized. Although anatomically continuous with each other at the corneoscleral limbus, the two cell phenotypes represent quite distinct subpopulations. The stem cells for the cornea are located at the limbus. The microenvironment of the limbus is considered to be important in maintaining stemness of the stem cells. They also act as a “barrier” to conjunctival epithelial cells and prevent them from migrating on to the corneal surface. In certain pathologic conditions, however, the limbal stem cells may be destroyed partially or completely resulting in varying degrees of stem cell deficiency with its characteristic clinical features. These include “conjunctivalization” of the cornea with vascularization, appearance of goblet cells, and an irregular and unstable epithelium. The stem cell deficiency can be managed with auto or allotransplantation of these cells. With the latter option, systemic immunosuppression is required. The stem cells can be expanded ex vivo on a processed human amniotic membrane and transplanted back to ocular surface with stem cell deficiency without the need of immunosuppression.

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