Transforming growth factor-beta (TGFβ) is a pleiotropic multifunctional cytokine that regulates several essential cellular processes in many parts of the body including the cornea. Three isoforms of TGFβ are known in mammals and the human cornea expresses all of them. TGFβ1 has been shown to play a central role in scar formation in adult corneas whereas TGFβ2 and TGFβ3 have been implicated to play a critical role in corneal development and scarless wound healing during embryogenesis. The biological effects of TGFβ in the cornea have been shown to follow Smad-dependent as well as Smad-independent signaling pathways depending upon cellular responses and microenvironment. Corneal TGFβ expression is necessary for maintaining corneal integrity and corneal wound healing. On the other hand, TGFβ is perhaps the most important cytokine in the pathogenesis of fibrotic disease in the cornea. Although the transformation of keratocytes to myofibroblasts induced by TGFβ is largely believed to cause corneal fibrosis or scarring, the precise molecular mechanism(s) involved in this process is still unknown. Currently no drugs are available to treat corneal scarring effectively without causing significant side effects. Many approaches to treat TGFβ- mediated corneal scarring are under investigation. These include blocking of TGFβ, TGFβ receptor, TGFβ function and/or TGFβ maturation. Other strategies such as modulating keratocyte proliferation, apoptosis, transcription and DNA condensation are also being investigated. The potential of gene therapy to neutralize the pathologic effects of TGFβ has also been demonstrated recently.
Keywords: Cornea, gene therapy, corneal scarring/haze, TGFβ
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