According to the "classical" doctrine, resident cells of the cornea include the stratified epithelial cells, quiescent keratocytes, and a single layer of nondividing endothelial cells. However, it has become increasingly evident that other cell types are involved in the homeostasis of the cornea. The presence of various cell types from different lineages has raised concern among researchers as to what we are actually "seeing" in the cornea. Although definitive conclusions cannot yet be drawn, this review attempts to clarify the various accessory cell types reported in the human and murine cornea. The epithelial layer of the limbal area includes melanocytes, as well as antigen-presenting cells that are also present in the peripheral clear cornea. The most debated tissue currently is perhaps the corneal stroma, where resident keratocytes are not as large a population as was previously believed. Bone marrow-derived cells are found in the cornea, and these may not express the typical HLA molecules usually found on the surface of antigen- presenting cells. Nerve fibers extend though the superficial stroma to form a plexus beneath the epithelium. Although the cell body of the neuron itself is not in the cornea, neural glial cells, such as Schwann cells, are present in the stroma. The use of specific molecular markers and high-quality imaging techniques will be required to fully elucidate the various accessory cells of the cornea and their function.
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