Potential therapeutic applications of mesenchymal stem cells for the treatment of eye diseases

World J Stem Cells. 2021 Jun 26;13(6):632-644. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v13.i6.632.


Stem cell-based treatments have been extensively explored in the last few decades to develop therapeutic strategies aimed at providing effective alternatives for those human pathologies in which surgical or pharmacological therapies produce limited effects. Among stem cells of different sources, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) offer several advantages, such as the absence of ethical concerns, easy harvesting, low immunogenicity and reduced tumorigenesis risks. Other than a multipotent differentiation ability, MSCs can release extracellular vesicles conveying proteins, mRNA and microRNA. Thanks to these properties, new therapeutic approaches have been designed for the treatment of various pathologies, including ocular diseases. In this review, the use of different MSCs and different administration strategies are described for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and retinitis pigmentosa. In a large number of investigations, positive results have been obtained by in vitro experiments and by MSC administration in animal models. Most authors agree that beneficial effects are likely related to MSC paracrine activity. Based on these considerations, many clinical trials have already been carried out. Overall, although some adverse effects have been described, promising outcomes are reported. It can be assumed that in the near future, safer and more effective protocols will be developed for more numerous clinical applications to improve the quality of life of patients affected by eye diseases.

Keywords: Diabetic retinopathy; Eye diseases; Glaucoma; Mesenchymal stem cells; Regenerative medicine; Retinitis pigmentosa.

Publication types

  • Review