Dr Jenny Young is a New Zealander with a PhD in Biology from the University of Auckland with an interest in how cells become organised into different tissues within the human body. This interest led her to study embryonic brain development at King’s College London in England and skin cancer development at the University of Queensland in Australia.
At the Queensland Eye Institute, Dr Young’s research is focused on the biology of corneal endothelial cells which line the inside surface of the cornea. These cells play an essential role in maintaining vision by keeping the cornea transparent. Unfortunately, the corneal endothelial layer is not able to repair itself following cell loss due to damage, disease or ageing. This weakness results in conditions such as Fuchs’ dystrophy for which a corneal transplant is required to restore vision.
One of Dr Young’s aims is to develop treatments that could promote the repair and regeneration of the corneal endothelium following damage or disease, without the need for a donor cornea transplant. While working towards this aim Dr Young discovered the presence of immature cells within a human cornea that had the ability to generate many sheets of endothelial cells (Jennifer Walshe and Damien Harkin, 2014. Serial explant culture provides novel insights into the potential location and phenotype of corneal endothelial progenitor cells. Experimental Eye Research 127: 9-13). This discovery indicates that it may be possible to devise a treatment to stimulate corneal endothelium regeneration within the eyes of patients in the future.