Corneal Regeneration Laboratory

Principal Investigator

Gary "Hin-Fai" Yam, PhD
Research Associate Professor
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


Lab Personnel

Tianbing Yang

Research Interests

The Corneal Regeneration laboratory focuses on the cornea, an organ that provides a visual portal to the world. The connective tissue of cornea (stroma) is extremely tough, and transparent to light. It also presents a significant biological barrier to infection. Globally, millions of patients have corneal opacification due to disease or trauma, hence vision loss. Our work focuses on the biological processes that produce and maintain the unique tissue of corneal stroma as well as the pathological changes that occur during injury, wound healing, scarring and diseases. We explore new designs to reverse the scarring process or replace the scarred cornea with bioengineered corneal tissue. Our lab has reported the use of stromal keratocytes and stromal stem cells to restore corneal transparency. These cell-based treatments produce tissue identical to that of the transparent corneal stromal tissue in animal models of corneal injury. We are developing GMP compliant Standard Operating Procedure for clinical trials in patients with corneal scarring. We are also actively investigating the mechanism by which the stem cells induce tissue regeneration, including exosomes, cytokines, and microRNAs.

Select Recent Publications

  1. Du, Y., Funderburgh J.L., et al. Stem cell therapy restores transparency to defective murine corneas. Stem Cells 27, 1635-1642 (2009).
  2. Wu, J., Funderburgh, et al. The engineering of organized human corneal tissue through the spatial guidance of corneal stromal stem cells. Biomaterials 33, 1343-1352 (2012).
  3. Basu, S., Funderburgh J.L., et al. Human limbal biopsy-derived stromal stem cells prevent corneal scarring. Sci Transl Med 6, 266ra172 (2014).
  4. Funderburgh, J. L., et al. Stem Cells in the Limbal Stroma. Ocul Surf 14, 113-120 (2016).
  5. Hertsenberg, A. J., Funderburgh, J.L., et al. Corneal stromal stem cells reduce corneal scarring by mediating neutrophil infiltration after wounding. PLoS One 12, e0171712 (2017).
  6. Shojaati, G., Funderburgh, J.L., et al. Compressed Collagen Enhances Stem Cell Therapy for Corneal Scarring. Stem Cells Transl Med 7, 487-494 (2018).
  7. Shojaati, G., Funderburgh, J.L., et al. Mesenchymal Stem Cells Reduce Corneal Fibrosis and Inflammation via Extracellular Vesicle-Mediated Delivery of miRNA. Stem Cells Transl Med 8, 1192-1201 (2019).
  8. Yam, G. H. et al. Ex vivo propagation of human corneal stromal "activated keratocytes" for tissue engineering. Cell Transplant 24, 1845-1861 (2015).
  9. Yam, G. H. et al. Safety and Feasibility of Intrastromal Injection of Cultivated Human Corneal Stromal Keratocytes as Cell-Based Therapy for Corneal Opacities. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 59, 3340-3354 (2018).
  10. Yam, G. H. et al. Differential epithelial and stromal protein profiles in cone and non-cone regions of keratoconus corneas. Sci Rep 9, 2965 (2019).
  11. Bandeira, F., Yam, G.H., et al. Urea-De-Epithelialized Human Amniotic Membrane for Ocular Surface Reconstruction. Stem Cells Transl Med (2019).
  12. Yam, G. H. et al. Characterization of Human Transition Zone Reveals a Putative Progenitor-Enriched Niche of Corneal Endothelium. Cells 8 (2019).

Contact Information

Gary Yam, Ph.D.
EEINS-1011, 203 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh PA 15213