Addressing degenerative changes in the retina (Application)

Neuronal degeneration is the cause of blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and glaucoma. Neural stem cells/progenitors may help to restore vision or slow down the progression of the disease. Our lab is involved in establishing the proof of principle of three different approaches to address degenerative changes in the retina

  1. Transplantation of native/genetically engineered ocular neural stem cells/progenitors.
  2. Activation of endogenous ocular neural stem cells/progenitors.
  3. Use of ocular neural stem cells/progenitors for drug/gene discovery. 

Identification of renewable sources of neural progenitors with retinal potential: 

The limited self-renewal potential of retinal stem cells/progenitors and their isolation from embryonic/fetal tissue constitute significant barriers towards their utilization for therapeutic purposes. Our lab is interested in identifying and characterizing conditions that will allow mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells and heterologous stem cells/progenitors such as those present in the corneal limbus to differentiate into retinal neurons. We observed that, given the appropriate conditions, both ES cells and corneal stem cells/progenitors can differentiate along retinal lineage, however, their efficiency of differentiation was low. One of the major challenges before us is to identify conditions that will increase the efficiency of differentiation to a level that make their clinical use feasible. Since corneal stem cells/progenitors can be easily harvested from the limbus of the patient, their potential to generate retinal neurons opens a unique prospect of autologous transplantation to treat retinal degeneration. 

ES-cell derived neural progenitors 
ES-cell derived neural progenitors

Limbus-derived neural progenitors
Limbus-derived neural progenitors

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