Examining the Effects of Keratan Sulfate on Trigeminal Nerve Growth

Student Author(s)

Adam Standiford

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Tyler Schwend

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The cornea is the most densely innervated tissue on the surface of the body. Unfortunately, corneal nerve loss is common following corrective surgeries, such as LASIK, and is associated with many corneal diseases. Inexplicably, damaged corneal nerves are slow to repair or fail to do so, resulting in a significant disease burden ranging from dry eye to ocular blindness. Despite their importance in maintaining eye health and vision throughout our lifetime, our understanding of how nerves innervate the developing cornea is fragmentary. Our research aims to identify the molecular factors and underlying mechanisms involved in cornea innervation in hopes of gaining insight into potential therapeutic targets for repairing damaged corneal nerves. Increasing levels of the extracellular sugar molecule keratan sulfate (KS) in the cornea coincides with the time during development that nerves begin to innervate the cornea. This has prompted us to examine whether KS influences cornea innervation. Using in vitro methods, we have set out to examine whether corneal KS, derived from bovine eyes, can regulate cellular behaviors of embryonic chick trigeminal ganglion neurons (the source of corneal nerves). Our work will shed insight into the potential regulatory relationship between corneal KS and trigeminal nerves during cornea innervation.

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