The many faces of the trabecular meshwork cell.
With the combined purpose of facilitating useful vision over a lifetime, a number of ocular cells have evolved specialized features not found elsewhere in the body. The trabecular meshwork (TM) cell at the irido-corneal angle, which is a key regulator of intraocular pressure, is no exception. Examination of cells in culture isolated from the human TM has shown that they are unique in many ways, displaying characteristic features of several different cell types. Thus, these neural crest derived cells display expression patterns and behaviors typical of endothelia, fibroblasts, smooth muscle and macrophages, owing to the multiple roles and two distinct environments where they operate to maintain intraocular pressure homeostasis. In most individuals, TM cells function normally over a lifetime in the face of persistent stressors, including phagocytic, oxidative, mechanical and metabolic stress. Study of TM cells isolated from ocular hypertensive eyes has shown a compromised ability to perform their daily duties. This review highlights the many responsibilities of the TM cell and its challenges, progress in our understanding of TM biology over the past 30 years, as well as discusses unanswered questions about TM dysfunction that results in IOP dysregulation and glaucoma.
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