From San Francisco, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Scientists have developed a technique to grow corneal tissue that includes nerve cells, an advance that may enable researchers to test consumer products in lab dishes rather than in live animals.
Previously, scientists had created tissues that in many respects mimic the human cornea, says Rosemarie Osborne, a cell biologist with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati. When exposed to chemicals for extended periods, those substitutes become cloudy and inflamed and show other signs of irritation, just as human corneas do. However, because those tissues lacked nerve cells, researchers couldn't monitor cellular activity associated with pain. Also, corneal tissue without nerves doesn't heal as quickly as a wounded human cornea does.