Apply Human Stem Cell Technology to the Study and Treatment of Inherited and Acquired Degenerative Retinal Diseases
2016 Gund Harrington Scholar
The disease process in retinitis pigmentosa and other blinding disorders involves the degeneration of the retina’s rods and cones, the photoreceptor cells that are essential to vision. This process causes progressive vision loss in the affected individual. Dr. Gamm and his colleagues have developed a method and technology to grow functional, three-dimensional tissues containing rods and cones from human stem cells in a dish.
The next challenge for progressing this technology will be delivering and inserting the rods and cones into the eye in the proper alignment using a photoreceptor-seeded scaffold. Dr. Gamm anticipates that the Gund-Harrington award will advance the project by supporting his collaboration with University of Wisconsin engineers to solve the delivery challenge.
“When (University of Wisconsin scientist) James Thomson pioneered human embryonic stem cells in 1997, I saw the promise and possibility of taking his discovery in a direction that could be relevant and make a difference for the patients for whom there are no treatments.“
“We and others are able to take a skin or blood sample and, through a series of steps, generate an unlimited supply of retinal cells from any individual. This never ceases to amaze me.”
“As a pediatric eye surgeon I diagnose and treat many kinds of inherited retinal disease. The most frustrating are the ones I cannot do anything about. To be part of taking this work forward in an effort to help patients and families is what gets me up in the morning.”