Diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal degeneration used to spell the end of sight for those afflicted. The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Eye Institute (NEI) has granted $1.9 million to Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center to fund retina regeneration research to help patients with those conditions. As expected, animal research is going to play an important role in those studies.
Part of the Audacious Goals Initiative developed by NEI to push the envelope to tackle some of the most difficult eye diseases through regenerative medicine, the idea is to use stem cells to replace damaged retinal tissue and restore sight. Ed Levine, Ph.D., one of the head researchers, is very optimistic about the potential of this research. “This is very early work,” he explains, “but we already have hints that it is possible because many fish species have the capacity to regenerate cells.” Levine has teamed up with James Patton, Ph.D., who has researched the retinal regeneration capacities of zebrafish. The goal is to understand how zebrafish can regenerate their cells and attempt to recreate that regeneration in mouse models. The hope is that from mice, the therapies could eventually be applied to humans.
This research is just another example of how animal models can be used to better the lives of individuals with terminal, debilitating diseases. To read more about this exciting study, please click here.