The lacrimal gland produces the aqueous component of tears, including electrolytes, peptides, and glycoproteins necessary to maintain homeostasis and optical properties of the ocular surface. Stem cells that contribute to the homeostasis of the lacrimal gland are under extensive study. It is still unclear whether such stem cells are of mesenchymal or epithelial origin. It is also possible that a unique epithelial stem cell undergoes epithelial-mesenchymal transition and contributes to the mesenchyme. Developmental studies in mice have shown that a network of growth factors contributes to epithelial-mesenchymal interaction during morphogenesis of the lacrimal gland. Recently, the developmental process was successfully recapitulated in vitro, providing a valuable tool for study of lacrimal gland development and possibly opening doors to regenerative therapy. While further studies are required to identify and appreciate the potential of lacrimal gland stem cells, advances in stem cell biology in general should become a catalyst towards developing regenerative therapy of the lacrimal gland.
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