Immune cells, both tissue resident immune cells and those immune cells recruited in response to wounding or degenerative conditions, are essential to both the maintenance and restoration of homeostasis in most tissues. These cells are typically provided to tissues by their closely associated vasculatures. However, the lens, like many of the tissues in the eye, are considered immune privileged sites because they have no associated vasculature. Such absence of immune cells was thought to protect the lens from inflammatory responses that would bring with them the danger of causing vision impairing opacities. However, it has now been shown, as occurs in other immune privileged sites in the eye, that novel pathways exist by which immune cells come to associate with the lens to protect it, maintain its homeostasis, and function in its regenerative repair. Here we review the discoveries that have revealed there are both innate and adaptive immune system responses to lens, and that, like most other tissues, the lens harbors a population of resident immune cells, which are the sentinels of danger or injury to a tissue. While resident and recruited immune cells are essential elements of lens homeostasis and repair, they also become the agents of disease, particularly as progenitors of pro-fibrogenic myofibroblasts. There still remains much to learn about the function of lens-associated immune cells in protection, repair and disease, the knowledge of which will provide new tools for maintaining the core functions of the lens in the visual system.
Walker, Janice L and Menko, A. Sue, "Immune cells in lens injury repair and fibrosis" (2021). Department of Pathology, Anatomy, and Cell Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 318.
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