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Presentation Time: 10:40-11:00
Home University: UNC-Chapel Hill
Research Mentor: Dr. Hua Mei, Dept. of Ophthalmology
Program: SMART
Research Title: The Role of a Small Molecule in Facilitated Corneal healing

The cornea contains five layers: epithelium, Bowman’s layer, stroma, Descemet’s membrane, and endothelium. External damage to epithelium does not generally lead to scar formation, however, if the damage reaches corneal stroma, a scar will form, negatively impacting vision. Stroma cells have been observed to secrete certain small molecules in response to wounding. One such molecule is Protein X, our molecule of interest. We are interested in determining if Protein X can facilitate healing of corneal wounds that have reached the stroma, without leaving scars. The experiment begins with the surgical application of wounds to the corneas of mice and immediate introduction of the molecule of interest via local injection. Subsequent to an incubation period, tissue samples are harvested and microscopy slides are prepared. The sample slides are then stained using immunohistochemistry, which attaches marker antibodies to proteins known to be involved in the corneal healing process. The sample slides are then viewed via fluorescence microscopy, which reveals the concentrations of these marker proteins in the region of the wound, thus allowing observation of the healing activity. These images are recorded and processed by software that overlays the images to quantify the protein expression. Reportable results from this study are still pending. Upon the conclusion of the mouse model study, we intend to follow up with a replicative study utilizing human corneal tissue.