Marco Schaafsma

PhD Student

Developing a strategy to transdifferentiate epithelial cells into limbal stem cells for cornea regeneration

In June 2020, Marco received his Master’s in Biomedical Sciences, with a specialization in molecular mechanisms of health and disease at Hasselt University (Belgium). Then, he started working at a small biotech company (Complix), where he gained a lot of practical experience.
Ready for a new challenge, he started his PhD in April 2022. Under supervision of Dr. Vanessa LaPointe and Dr. Mor Dickman at the cBITE department, he will investigate a strategy to transdifferentiate epithelial cells from patients into limbal stem cells. In case of corneal injury, when the LSCs are damaged, the inherent regenerative capacity can be lost, which can result in blindness. Currently, for unilateral cases, transplantation of autologous LSCs from the uninjured eye is being used successfully as a treatment. However, for bilateral cases, there is a need for a new cell source that can match the regenerative potential of autologous LSCs. If successful, these transdifferentiated LSCs could be used as a vision-saving regenerative therapy for treating patients with both unilateral and bilateral LSC-deficiency.

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