Corneal Cell Biology Laboratory

James L. Funderburgh, PhD
Professor of Ophthalmology
Professor, Cell Biology & Physiology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

Lab Personnel

Martha Funderburgh (Lab Manager and Sr. Research Technician)
Moira Geary (Research Technician)
Mary Mann (Research Technician)

Research Interests

The Funderburgh lab focuses on the cornea, an organ that provides a visual portal to the world. The connective tissue of the cornea is extremely tough, and transparent to light. It also presents a significant biological barrier to infection. In millions of individuals, worldwide, however the cornea has lost its transparency due to disease or trauma. Corneal scarring can disrupt vision permanently. Our work focuses on the biological processes that produce and maintain the unique connective tissue of the cornea as well as the pathological changes that occur during scarring. These involve studies of extracellular matrix molecules and how they influence cell behavior.

Our work extends to studies designed to reverse the scarring process or replace scarred cornea with bioengineered cornea tissue. Over the past few years we have explored the use of stem cells to restore corneal transparency. Using nanofiber scaffolding we found that stem cells produce a tissue identical to that of the transparent tissue of the cornea. We are developing this material to serve as replacement of corneal tissue in scarred eyes. I addition we have found that adult stem cells induce regeneration of corneal tissue, removing pathological tissue and replacing it with organized transparent new tissue. These adult cells can be obtained autologously, allowing individuals to treated with their own cells. Our lab is actively investigating the mechanism by which adult stem cells induce tissue regeneration and is developing an approach to clinical trials for using corneal stem cells to treat blindness.

Select Recent Publications

  1. Wu J, Du Y, Watkins SC, Funderburgh JL, Wagner WR. The engineering of organized human corneal tissue through the spatial guidance of corneal stromal stem cells. Biomaterials 2011 November 10.
  2. Roh DS, Funderburgh JL. Rapid changes in connexin-43 in response to genotoxic stress stabilize cell-cell communication in corneal endothelium. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2011 July;52(8):5174-5182.
  3. Hara H, Koike N, Long C, Piluek J, Roh DS, SundarRaj N, Funderburgh JL, Mizuguchi Y, Isse K, Phelps CJ, Ball SF, Ayares DL, Cooper DK. Initial in vitro investigation of the human immune response to corneal cells from genetically engineered pigs. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2011 July;52(8):5278-5286.
  4. Du Y, Danny S. Roh, Martha L. Funderburgh, Mary M. Mann, Kacey G. Marra, J. Peter Rubin, Xuan Li, James L. Funderburgh. (2010) Adipose-derived stem cells differentiate to keratocytes in vitro Molecular Vision 2010; 16:2680-2689
  5. Guo N, Li X, Mann MM, Funderburgh ML, Du Y, Funderburgh JL. (2010) Hyaluronan synthesis mediates the fibrotic response of keratocytes to transforming growth factor beta. J Biol Chem. 2010 Aug 4. PMID: 20685654
  6. Y. Hayashi, MK. Call, T-I Chikama, H Liu, EC. Carlson, Y Sun, E. Pearlman, JL Funderburgh, G Baccock, C-Y Liu, Y O, and Winston Kao (2010) Requirement of Lumican for Neutrophil Extravasation Following Corneal Injury and Wound Healing. Journal of Cell Science, May 2010
  7. Impact on the corneal endothelium of mitomycin C during photorefractive keratectomy. Danny S. Roh and JL Funderburgh. Journal of Refractive Surgery 2009 Oct;25(10):894-7. PMID: 19835330
  8. Robert D. Young, Shivalingappa K. Swamynathan, Craig Boote, Mary Mann, Andrew J. Quantock, Joram Piatigorsky, James L. Funderburgh and Keith M. Meek. Stromal Edema in Klf4 Conditional Null Mouse Cornea is Associated with Altered Collagen Fibril Organization and Reduced Proteoglycans. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2009 Sep;50(9):4155-61. PMID: 19387067
  9. Yiqin Du, Eric C Carlson, Martha L Funderburgh, David E Birk, Eric Pearlman, Naxin Guo, Winston W-Y Kao, James L Funderburgh. Stem Cell Therapy Restores Transparency To Defective Murine Corneas Stem Cells, 2009 Jul;27(7):1635-42.PMID: 19544455
  10. Danny S. Roh, Amanda L. Cook, Steven S. Rhee, Amar Joshi, Regis Kowalski, Deepinder K. Dhaliwal, James L. Funderburgh. DNA Cross-linking, Double-strand Breaks and Apoptosis in Corneal Endothelial Cells After a Single Exposure to Mitomycin-C. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2008; 49 (11) 4837-43. PMID 18658901

Contact Information

James L. Funderburgh, Ph.D.
EEINS-1011, 203 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh PA 15213