Corneal Cell Biology Laboratory

Principal Investigator


Research Projects

What We Do

We work to understand the cells of the cornea. Under the direction of Dr. James Funderburgh, the Corneal Cell Biology Laboratory (CCBL) is dedicated to understanding the biological causes for corneal blindness and to developing cell-based therapies for restoration of corneal transparency.

A researcher uses a microscope at the Funderburgh Lab. The cornea is the window to the visual system. This living tissue is perfectly transparent, serving to focus light on the retina and acting as a physical and biological barrier to protect the eye. For more than eight million people, however, corneal opacities disrupt visual acuity, leading to permanent blindness. The CCBL is working to understand the cells of the cornea and to define how they function to maintain the integrity of this tough, yet transparent tissue.

Our lab researchers employ modern techniques of genetic engineering to produce models of human disease and use human corneal cells in culture to understand the biology of corneal transparency.

A major focus of the laboratory is stem cell research. Stem cells from the eye have the ability to repair damaged corneal tissue and can produce corneal tissue in culture. An emerging goal of the lab is to translate stem cell-based technologies to clinical therapies for corneal blindness.

Mission Statement

  • A researcher at the Funderburgh Lab works at a lab bench.The CCBL seeks to elucidate the cellular mechanisms that lead to corneal scarring and to identify molecular processes that can stop or reverse this important cause of blindness.
  • The CCBL seeks to engineer tissue corneal constructs combining novel polymer chemistry with cultured stem cells to provide a supply of new tissue for corneal transplantation.
  • The CCBL seeks to identify innovative corneal therapies including direct cell-based therapies to restore vision in scarred corneas or block immune rejection.
  • The CCBL seeks to provide a high quality training environment for a broad range of individuals with interest in cell biology-related vision research.

Contact Information:
Department of Ophthalmology,
University of Pittsburgh,
203 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Martha L Funderburgh

Phone: 412-647-3853

Fax: 412-647-5880