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Aug 20, 2015

Fish Eyes May Solve The Mystery

Tiny zebrafish could reveal the key to effective cell transplantation.

The retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) is a thin layer of cells that covers the back of the retina and is crucial for photoreceptor health. Defects in the RPE lead to photoreceptor degeneration, and loss of sight. One approach to treat eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, is to make RPE cells from stem cells, and then transplant these cells into the damaged retina.

This treatment approach requires the newly transplanted RPE cells to migrate to the correct position in the eye. Understanding RPE migration is critical to developing this treatment. Yet, we know little about how and why these cells move.

To solve this mystery, Dr. Sarah McFarlane at the University of Calgary will use three-dimensional live-tracking methods to observe RPE movements in zebrafish during development and after injury.

“This is extremely relevant to FBC’s mission because the grafting of RPE cells will (likely) be the first treatment for vision loss,” observed the FBC’s Scientific Advisory Board, when reviewing McFarlane’s proposal.

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