Visual Restoration After Retinal Sheet Transplantation

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Faculty Mentor:  

Dr. Magdalene Seiler
Department:  Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Office Address:  845 Health Science Rd., 2035 Gross Hall
Campus Phone:  949-824-2037
Faculty Research Web site:

Area of Research:   Biomedical Sciences-Transplants/Implants
Additional AOR:  Biomedical Sciences- Ophthalmology/Visual Science
Expected Duration:   Academic Year and Summer
Majors:   Biomedical Engineering, Biological Sciences, Pharmaceutical Science
Additional Majors:  Chemical Engineering
Eligibility Requirements:   Applicants are required to currently be enrolled or have taken introductory biology and chemistry classes. Additionally, applicants must be willing to work with rats (handling, injections, etc.). As with any working environment punctuality, professionalism, and organization are also required. Applicants with signal processing experience and proficiency in Matlab are preferred. Minimum time commitment is 12 hr/wk. Role in project: (1) participate in testing visual function of rats, (2) live imaging of rat eyes, (3) histology and immunohistochemistry.
Project Details:   There is currently no effective treatment for blinding diseases such as dry age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. Both these diseases are characterized by a deficiency in photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelium. Therefore, our lab has pioneered a unique method to transplant fetal retinal progenitor sheets together with its supporting retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) to replace the deficient retinal layers. The resulting surgical intervention and transplantation has been shown to improve vision in animal models of retinal degeneration as well as in patients with retinal degeneration. However, ethical considerations and the limited supply of fetal retinal tissue prevent this from being a feasible treatment. Recently, several laboratories have shown that human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can “self-assembly” into early stages of eye development and develop into structures resembling retinal epithelia. To circumvent the limitations of fetal retinal tissue, our lab has generated 3-D constructs of retinal progenitor tissue from hESCs. In order to examine the effectiveness of the hESC-derived tissue as a treatment we will use an immunodeficient rat model of retinal degeneration. This rat model will allow for the integration of the transplanted hESC tissue without transplant rejection while concurrently permitting observation of the transplant integration in a model of retinal degeneration. The hypothesis of the proposed project is that hESC-derived retinal tissue can restore visual responses after transplantation into the immunodeficient rat model of retinal degeneration. Transplants will be followed by optical coherence imaging. Visual responses following implantation will be evaluated using optokinetic testing, electroretinograms, and superior colliculus electrophysiology. This project will ultimately help to restore vision in patients suffering from retinal diseases.
Number of Positions:   5
Posted On:   1/8/2016
Post Until:   11/2017
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