Glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. The major risk factor for most glaucoma patients — and the focus of treatment — is increased intraocular pressure (IOP). One factor that correlates with IOP rise is trabecular meshwork (TM) decellularization, which occurs naturally with age. Replacing those lost TM cells using stem cells from the same region could restore healthy aqueous outflow and return IOP to normal, thereby slowing glaucoma progression and preserving vision.

Technology Description

Stem cells are abundant throughout the human TM. They can be isolated in vitro using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) or clonal growth and then cultured for several generations without losing multi-potency. Once induced to differentiate into TM cells, TM stem cells had a similar gene expression profile to primary TM cells and were phagocytic like primary TM cells. Finally, when transplanted into the anterior chambers of mice in vivo, TM stem cells automatically moved into the TM region, differentiated, and integrated into the TM tissue there which means they are functional in vivo. These transplanted cells did not evoke an inflammatory response from the host tissue and remained viable for at least four months. Unlike current treatments for glaucoma involving pharmacological and surgical aqueous humor reduction, our cell-based approach has the potential to actually repair the pathological tissue.


  • TM stem cells can retain multipotency in culture which ensures sufficient cell numbers for multiple transplantations from one single donor.
  • TM cells derived from stem cells function like native TM cells
  • Injected TM stem cells localize into TM tissue and function without rejection


  • Cell-based therapy for glaucoma

Stage of Development

in vivo data

IP Status

Patent application US 2015/0231180 published

Featured Innovators

Yiqin Du, MD, PhD
James Funderburgh, PhD
 Joel Schuman, MD

Relevant Publications

  • Yun H, Zhou Y, Wills A, Du Y (2016). Stem cells in the trabecular meshwork for regulating intraocular pressure. Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 32(5), 253-260.
  • Yun H, Schuman JS, Du Y (2014). Trabecular meshwork stem cells. In: Regenerative Biology of the Eye (pp. 203-214). Springer, New York, NY.
  • Du Y, Yun H, Yang E, Schuman JS (2013). Stem cells from trabecular meshwork home to TM tissue in vivo. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 54(2), 1450-1459.
  • Du Y, Roh DS, Mann MM, Funderburgh ML, Funderburgh JL, Schuman JS (2012). Multipotent stem cells from trabecular meshwork become phagocytic TM cells. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science, 53(3), 1566-1575.
  • Du Y, Mann MM, Roh DS, Funderburgh ML, Schuman JS, Funderburgh JL (2010). Characteristics of Trabecular Meshwork Stem Cells. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 51(13), 1627-1627.