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Dan Yan, Fei Yu, Liangbo Chen, Qinke Yao, Chenxi Yan, Siyi Zhang, Nianxuan Wu, Danni Gong, Hao Sun, Yao Fu, Chunyi Shao; Subconjunctival Injection of Regulatory T Cells Potentiates Corneal Healing Via Orchestrating Inflammation and Tissue Repair After Acute Alkali Burn. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2020;61(14):22. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.61.14.22.
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This study aimed to investigate the therapeutic effects and underlying mechanisms of locally delivered regulatory T cells (Tregs) on acute corneal wound healing after alkali burn.
After corneal alkali burn, the mice were injected subconjunctivally with regulatory T cells (Tregs) isolated from syngeneic mice. The wound healing process was monitored by clinical manifestation, flow cytometry, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). As amphiregulin (Areg) was significantly upregulated, its reparative function in injured corneas was suggested. The hypothesis was further verified via loss- and gain-of-function experiments by administrating the antibody of Areg (anti-Areg) and recombinant Areg (rmAreg).
Subconjunctivally injected Tregs rapidly migrated to injured corneas. The mice treated with Tregs showed prominently reduced corneal opacity, alleviated edema, and faster re-epithelialization compared with the control group. Mechanistically, Treg treatment led to suppressed infiltration of inflammatory cells, along with improved proliferation and inhibited apoptosis of corneal epithelial cells. Tregs expressed upregulated functional markers, including Areg. Expectantly, the levels of Areg in corneas were dramatically higher in the Treg injection group, in line with better corneal restoration. Additional experiments showed that the administration of anti-Areg blunted the reparative effect of Tregs, while exogenous Areg enhanced it. Treg-treated corneas also exhibited less neovascularization and fibrosis at a later reconstruction stage of corneal repair.
The findings showed that the subconjunctival injection of Tregs effectively promoted corneal wound healing by inhibiting excessive inflammation and enhancing epithelial regeneration, with an indispensable reparative role of Areg. Subsequent complications of corneal vascularization and fibrosis were therefore reduced.
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