This study indicated that the sclera contains multipotent mesenchymal stem cells. The results may elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanism of scleral diseases.
The sclera forms the fibrous outer coat of the eyeball and acts as a supportive framework. The purpose of this study was to examine whether the sclera contains mesenchymal stem/progenitor cells.
Scleral tissue from C57BL6/J mice was separated from the retina and choroid and subsequently enzyme digested to release single cells. Proliferation capacity, self-renewal capacity, and ability for multipotent differentiation were analyzed by BrdU labeling, flow cytometry, reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction, immunocytochemistry, and in vivo transplantation.
The scleral stem/progenitor cells (SSPCs) possessed clonogenic and high doubling capacities. These cells were positive for the mesenchymal markers Sca-1, CD90.2, CD44, CD105, and CD73 and negative for the hematopoietic markers CD45, CD11b, Flk1, CD34, and CD117. In addition to expressing stem cell genes ABCG2, Six2, Notch1, and Pax6, SSPCs were able to differentiate to adipogenic, chondrogenic, and neurogenic lineages.
This study indicates that the sclera contains multipotent mesenchymal stem cells. Further study of SSPCs may help elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanism of scleral diseases such as scleritis and myopia.