Ocular GVHD (oGVHD), manifested by severe injury of corneal epithelial cells, meibomian and lacrimal glands' dysfunction, is a serious complication of systemic GVHD which develops as a consequence of donor T and natural killer cell-driven inflammation in the eyes of patients who received allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are, due to their enormous differentiation potential and immunosuppressive characteristics, considered as a potentially new remedy in ophthalmology. MSC differentiate in corneal epithelial cells, suppress eye inflammation, and restore meibomian and lacrimal glands' function in oGVHD patients. MSC-sourced exosomes (MSC-Exos) are extracellular vesicles that contain MSC-derived growth factors and immunoregulatory proteins. Due to the lipid membrane and nano-sized dimension, MSC-Exos easily by-pass all biological barriers in the eyes and deliver their cargo directly in injured corneal epithelial cells and eye-infiltrated leukocytes, modulating their viability and function. As cell-free agents, MSC-Exos address all safety issues related to the transplantation of their parental cells, including the risk of unwanted differentiation and aggravation of intraocular inflammation. In this review article, we summarized current knowledge about molecular mechanisms which are responsible for beneficial effects of MSC and MSC-Exos in the therapy of inflammatory eye diseases, emphasizing their therapeutic potential in the treatment of oGVHD.
Keywords: exosomes; immunosuppression; mesenchymal stem cells; ocular graft-versus-host disease; therapy.