Toolbox: Insight in Vision Research

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Scientist develops a powerful cell tracking tool to advance research into restoring vision.
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Macular degeneration can degrade vision and interfere with daily activities such as the ability to read and drive.
Age-related macular degeneration is an eye condition in which cells in the central part of the retina deteriorate, leading to vision loss. The disease damages a particular type of cell known as a cone cell, which controls our ability to see detail and color.
Researchers have been exploring new ways to repair the damage caused by macular degeneration by transplanting healthy cone cells into the retina; however, a major barrier to progress has been the lack of a suitable method for tracking the integration and survival of the transplanted cells.
Krembil Senior Scientist Dr. Valerie Wallace and her team have overcome this problem by using a cell tracking strategy in which an fluorescent tracer is linked to a protein called CCDC136 that is found in cone cells. The fluorescent protein serves as a “reporter” that can be detected by microscopy.
The team showed that this reporter protein does not change the behaviour of cone cells in healthy retinas. Moreover, cone cells expressing the protein can be accurately tracked within the eye after they are transplanted into an experimental model of age-related macular degeneration.
Comments Dr. Wallace, “This model will finally give us an opportunity to study cone development and survival in more detail, which should accelerate our ability to develop new strategies for restoring eye function.”
This work was supported by The W. Garfield Weston Foundation/Brain Canada Foundation, The Foundation Fighting Blindness and the Krembil Foundation. V Wallace is the Donald K. Johnson Chair in Vision Research.
Establishment of a cone photoreceptor transplantation platform based on a novel cone-GFP reporter mouse line. Smiley S, Nickerson PE, Comanita L, Daftarian N, El-Sehemy A, Tsai EL, Matan-Lithwick S, Yan K, Thurig S, Touahri Y, Dixit R, Aavani T, De Repentingy Y,Baker A, Tsilfidis C, Biernaskie J, Sauvé Y, Schuurmans C, Kothary R, Mears AJ, Wallace VA. Science Reports. 2016 Mar 11. doi:10.1038/srep22867. [Pubmed abstract]