Any significant loss of vision or blindness caused by corneal damages is referred to as corneal blindness. Corneal blindness is the fourth most common cause of blindness worldwide, representing more than 5% of the total blind population. Currently, corneal transplantation is used to treat many corneal diseases. In some cases, implantation of artificial cornea (keratoprosthesis) is suggested after a patient has had a donor corneal transplant failure. The shortage of donors and the side effects of keratoprosthesis are limiting these approaches. Recently, researchers have been actively pursuing new approaches for corneal regeneration because of these limitations. Nowadays, tissue engineering of different corneal layers (epithelium, stroma, endothelium, or full thickness tissue) is a promising approach that has attracted a great deal of interest from researchers and focuses on regenerative strategies using different cell sources and biomaterials. Various sources of corneal and non-corneal stem cells have shown significant advantages for corneal epithelium regeneration applications. Pluripotent stem cells (embryonic stem cells and iPS cells), epithelial stem cells (derived from oral mucus, amniotic membrane, epidermis and hair follicle), mesenchymal stem cells (bone marrow, adipose-derived, amniotic membrane, placenta, umbilical cord), and neural crest origin stem cells (dental pulp stem cells) are the most promising sources in this regard. These cells could also be used in combination with natural or synthetic scaffolds to improve the efficacy of the therapeutic approach. As the ocular surface is exposed to external damage, the number of studies on regeneration of the corneal epithelium is rising. In this paper, we reviewed the stem cell-based strategies for corneal epithelium regeneration.
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