The Network of Excellence in Corneal Regeneration

Maria Notara, PhD

Research Fellow, Dept. of Ophthalmology, University Hospital of Cologne, Germany


Education and previous work experience

Maria was born in Athens, Greece where she studied for her first degree in Chemical Engineering (National Technical University of Athens), graduating in 2001. The same year she enrolled for a Ph.D. with Professor David Grant at the University of Nottingham, department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering. The theme of her thesis was ‘The Biocompatibility and Haemocompility of a novel Chitosan-Alginate copolymer’. The project focused on polymer manufacturing and characterization as well as material-cell compatibility, blood cell lysis and platelet activation.


In 2005 she started her postdoctoral research career at the UCL institute of Ophthalmology in London, UK working with Professor Julie Daniels. There, she built on her Ph.D. background in biomaterials to move into tissue engineering and stem cells by investigating the potential use of a modified contact lens as a carrier for the delivery of limbal stem cells in the clinic. In addition she developed a xenobiotic-free system for safe and reproducible culture of limbal stem cells. Later on she studied the signaling and differentiation of limbal epithelial stem cells in their niche, as well as the changes in their phenotype after transplantation, by using ex-vivo models. Specifically, she discovered a role for interleukin 6 as a mediator of the limbal stem cell phenotype by using a novel in vitro model of the limbal niche. Also, she studied the anatomy and phenotype of the human limbal niche in relation to age including changes in putative stem cell character. In addition, she investigated the post-transplantation changes in limbal stem cells by using an ex-vivo porcine organ culture model and demonstrated the ability of the transplanted cells to re-populate the niche.


Other research experience in the stem cell field includes joining the UCL department of Surgery in 2010 to work with Professor John Masters investigating the role of prostate mesenchymal stem cells in benign prostate hyperplasia and prostate cancer. From 2012 to 2013 she held a position at the UCL Institute of healthy Ageing working with Dr. Daniel Pearce studying the impact of calorie restriction on the ageing of the hematopoietic stem cell compartment using FACS analysis.


Maria is an author of 19 peer reviewed articles and 2 book chapters.


Current work:

Maria joined the University Hospital of Cologne, Department of Ophthalmology in 2013 and is working with Professor Claus Cursiefen on the involvement of the limbal niche in the mechanisms of corneal (lymph)angiogenesis. Specifically she is investigating the role of limbal stem cells in lymphatic and blood vessel formation as well as lymphatic and blood endothelial cells using in vitro and in vivo models. She is particularly interested in the damaged niche with a focus on the effects of UVA and B, ageing and DNA damage. She is also responsible for the department’s FACS equipment and through this is collaborating in projects relevant to ocular immunology.


Research Interests:

  • Optimization of limbal stem cell culture and characterization
  • Role of the limbal niche to lymph- and hem-angiogenesis
  • Impact of UVA/B on limbal niche phenotype to its pro-inflammatory as well as pro-lymph- and hem-angiogenic potential
  • Effect of ageing in limbal niche neovascularization
  • DNA damage and limbal niche neovascularization



  • September 2014 Investigator Initiated Study, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc
  • April 2011 UCL Impact Awards PhD Studenship
  • Jan 2009-Jan 2010 NIHR Biomedical Research Centre for Ophthalmology–Award to support translational research initiatives 2008

Study Visit: New York Stem Cell Foundation: Training in iPS derivation and maintenance


Publications: Search on PubMed




Experimentelle Augenheilkunde
Uniklinik, LFI Gebäude 13
Kerpener Straße 62
Cologne, Germany
tel. +4922147832785


Link to LinkedIn page: LinkedIn


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The NExCR is managed by the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology)
Action BM1302 "Joining Forces in Corneal Regeneration Research" 2014-2017.