Corneal endothelial cells (CEnCs) regulate corneal hydration and maintain tissue transparency through their barrier and pump function. However, these cells exhibit limited regenerative capacity following injury. Currently, corneal transplantation is the only established therapy for restoring endothelial function, and there are no pharmacologic interventions available for restoring endothelial function. In this study, we investigate the efficacy of the neuropeptide α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) in promoting endothelial regeneration during the critical window between ocular injury and the onset of endothelial decompensation using an established murine model of injury using transcorneal freezing. Local administration of α-MSH following injury prevented corneal edema and opacity, reduced leukocyte infiltration, and limited CEnC apoptosis while promoting their proliferation. Our results suggest that α-MSH has a proregenerative and cytoprotective function on CEnCs and shows a promise as a therapy for prevention and management of corneal endothelial dysfunction.
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