Are you ever amazed at the power of science to replicate and adapt the human body for the betterment of humankind? We sometimes are. Bunsen Burner Joanna Zhang is revealing the extent of biological research occurring at Columbia and how it may help you one day.
Many Bwoggers have experienced the Netflix marathon craze during which you barricade yourself behind locked doors and burn through all 10 seasons of Friends because you. just. don’t. care. anymore. Of course, at some time during this mania, while rubbing your sore, bloodshot eyes, you might wonder if all this TV might blind you just as your mom warned. Well fear no more, Columbia ophthalmologists have found a way to restore your lost vision. Researchers at CUMC have found that human skin cells can improve the vision of blind mice. After injecting stem cell derived retinal cells into the eyes of blind mice, the stem cells were able to successfully assimilate into the mice’s retina and improve vision. Clinical trials for patients with degenerative retina are already in the works. This is the future, guys.
However, stem cells alone is not enough. Disease models are also needed to track exactly what’s going on. For diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) in which the macula (central portion of retina) deteriorates, the degenerative process is very complex and varies across patients. Unfortunately, this disease cannot be modelled in mice because they don’t have the macula, and would involve taking eye tissues from people which is also a no-no. Thankfully, researchers can now model ARMD in a simple Petri dish using stem cells. Skin cells were transformed into stem cells which differentiated into retinal cells. These retinal cells were then exposed to Vitamin A and sunlight for rapid aging. Researchers note that ARMD patients generally lack an enzyme called SOD2 that combats damaging oxygen radicals. Perhaps giving patients compounds that increase the amount of SOD2 may finally provide a cure for this apparently incurable disease.
Those who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa (RP) which affects the retina’s response to light, have not been forgotten by our wonderful CUMC team. In fact, researchers have taken a step further to create personalized gene therapies to combat this disease. Through stem cell technology, they were able to generate patient specific disease models that led to the discovery of a mutation to the gene MFRP. Gene therapy specifically catered to the patient can then be developed to reverse this mutation. Although MFRP is one of over 60 genes that may contribute to RP, these personal eye models can pave the way for even more personalized gene therapies in the future.
Are your eyes tired yet? Better do one of these weird eye exercises. Not sure if it helps but it’s all in the name of procrastination
Setting us up for a pretentious quote via Shuttershock