The keratocyte: Corneal stromal cell with variable repair phenotypes
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Keratocytes, also known as fibroblasts, are mesencyhmal-derived cells of the corneal stroma. These cells are normally quiescent, but they can readily respond and transition into repair phenotypes following injury. Cytokines and other growth factors that provide autocrine signals for stimulating wound responses in resident cells are typically presented by platelets at the site of an injury. However, due to the avascular nature of the cornea many of the environmental cues are derived from the overlying epithelium. Corneal epithelial-keratocyte cell interactions have thus been extensively studied in numerous in vivo corneal wound healing settings, as well as in in vitro culture models. Exposure to the different epithelial-derived factors, as well as the integrity of the epithelial substratum, are factors known to impact the keratocyte response and determine whether corneal repair will be regenerative or fibrotic in nature. Finally, the recent identification of bone-marrow derived stem cells in the corneal stroma suggests a further complexity in the regulation of the keratocyte phenotype following injury.
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