Characterisation of novel neuronal receptors at human corneal limbus

Research details

  • Type of funding: Fight for Sight Small Grant Award
  • Grant Holder: Dr Mouhamed Al-Aqaba
  • Institute: The University of Nottingham
  • Region: East Midlands
  • Start date: April 2018
  • End Date: May 2019
  • Priority: Causes
  • Eye Category: Corneal & external


The human cornea (the clear front part of eye) is a highly sensitive structure and supplied by a dense network of superficial and deep nerves. These nerves exert a variety of sensory and neurotrophic functions through the release of important proteins. These functions are crucial to maintain a healthy ocular surface through the stimulation of corneal wound healing after corneal injuries.

Damage to these nerves can result in Neurotrophic keratitis; a condition in which the superficial corneal layer breaks down over time and cause the cornea to be prone to injury that can result in corneal ulcers, perforation, infection, scarring and blindness. The most common causes of this type of keratitis are herpetic viral infection of the ocular surface, laser refractive surgery, and damage to the trigeminal nerve by orbital or head trauma, surgery, aneurysms or intracranial lesions.

The exact mechanism by which the nerves exert their trophic effect is still not fully understood. Researchers have recently discovered a new type of nerve terminals in the peripheral cornea in a close proximity to corneal epithelial stem cells. This discovery represents a new advancement in the field of neuroscience related to ophthalmology.

The purpose of this study is to find out the nature of these nerve terminals using a variety of histological techniques. The results could shed light on the function of these structures and their role in relation to corneal sensation, stem cell mechanism and prevention of blindness.