Assistant Professor Eiko K. De Jong
We are in the middle of our study ‘elucidating novel biomarkers for AMD’ using the MARS cohort. We have obtained DNA from the cohort, and this has now been genotyped. In order to perform the genome-wide association study on progression, we are exploring the best manner in which progression can be represented (either dichotomous, categorical, or continuous). We are currently determining whether the serum samples stored by the MARS study team meet the quality criteria for biomarker analysis, and fully expect our study to move ahead in the second half of 2017.
Assistant Professor Junyeop Lee
Thanks to support from GOAP, we analyzed structural and functional changes of choroidal pericytes during development and aging. We have developed an animal model presenting pericyte-deficient choroidopathy through the regulation of PDGF signalling. Choroidal pericytes and smooth muscle cells have important roles in the regulation of choroidal blood flow and the maintenance of endothelial stability. We are waiting for the combination of genetically modified mice, and have a plan to confirm the physiological role of choroidal pericytes once these mice are available. We are also looking for molecular targets from choroidal endothelial cells for the treatment of pericyte-associated choroidopathy.
Associate Professor Alex Hewitt
We recently reported the utility of adeno-associated virus-mediated CRISPR/Cas gene editing in the retina; however, with such a viral delivery system, active endonucleases will be maintained in the retina for an extended period, making genotoxicity a significant consideration in clinical applications. To address this issue, we have rationally designed a self-destructing “kamikaze” CRISPR/Cas system that disrupts the Cas enzyme itself following expression. Our work has demonstrated that a self-destructing “kamikaze” CRISPR/Cas system could be used as a safe and robust tool for refined gene editing in the retina, without compromising on-target efficiency.
Dr Abhishek Sharma
Toronto Western Hospital and Hospital for Sick Children, Canada
Dr Wai-Ching Lam
Dr Jessica Shantha
I published a review on Ebola and the eye in Current Opinion in Ophthalmology, and recently published a retrospective study on ophthalmic manifestations of Ebola virus disease survivors in Liberia in Ophthalmology. In January, I presented the rationale, study design, and baseline characteristics of the EVICT (Ebola Virus Persistence in Ocular Tissues and Fluids) study at the American Uveitis Society meeting. At the 2017 ARVO meeting, I presented a poster entitled ‘Ebola Virus Persistence in Ocular Tissues and Fluids (EVICT) II Study: Cataract Surgery’. We screened over 60 patients and included 22 patients in the first phase of the EVICT study, and we will soon publish the results. We will travel back to Sierra Leone this month (July) to complete the second phase of the study.
Dr José Ronaldo Lima de Carvalho Júnior
Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA
Dr Stephen Tsang
Dr Paul Steptoe
We recently published in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, our first research output of the year, which identified a novel retinal lesion in Ebola survivors, suggesting neurotropism. We were also able to report that the aqueous fluid from two survivors with cataracts was free of the Ebola virus, which suggests that cataract surgery is safe. To our surprise, the work received extensive international media coverage. We have follow-up data on over 50 Ebola survivors, and this is due to be submitted for publication shortly.
Dr Shyamanga Borooah
[At the time of writing] I am 6 weeks into my GOAP fellowship, and I have spent this time standardizing my intended assays in the murine system. I will perform a range of activities to measure disease progression using non-invasive imaging. Firstly, I am optimizing the OCT and SLO set-up for murine work. Other studies that are currently being optimized include immunostaining, Western blot, and RNA array.
"The GOAP fellowship funding provides a robust platform that opens a rare opportunity for academic ophthalmologists to learn new techniques and build academic relationships while also maintaining clinical excellence. The funding will enable me and my cohort of academic ophthalmologists to develop new investigations and therapies that will ultimately benefit patients."
Dr Sofia Theodoropoulou
The aim of my project is to determine the potential role of IL-33 during the progression of AMD. To address this, in the last couple of months I have explored whether IL-33 ameliorates retinal degeneration in vivo in the model of wortmannin-induced retinal degeneration. The preliminary data may support a critical role of IL-33 in sustaining photoreceptor and RPE health. Furthermore, IL-33 treatment demonstrated improvement in retinal function and significantly reduced apoptosis in this ‘dry AMD’ model, which supports the therapeutic use of IL-33.
Dr Tiarnan Keenan
Specialist Registrar in Ophthalmology, Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. Honorary Research Fellow, University of Manchester.
Dr Emily Chew
Dr Vinícius Monteiro de Castro
Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil
Thomas W. Gardner
Dr Xi Chen
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, MA
Dr Cynthia Ann Toth
Dr Yoko Okunuki
In our murine model of retinal detachment, I found that miR-155 deficiency is protective at the peak of photoreceptor cell death (24 hours). Conversely, photoreceptor cell death was increased in microglia-depleted retinas using a transgenic mice system (CX3Cr1Cre x B6-iDTR). These data suggest that activation of microglia through miR-155 may not be a decisive factor for photoreceptor cell death; however, activated microglia may play a protective role for photoreceptor cell death in retinal detachment.
By receiving the GOAP Research Award, I have become more confident about my research project and vision. It has provided a great opportunity to reconsider how my research project can be useful for the treatment of ocular diseases.
Dr Yoko Owaza
We have started to administer our candidate drug to a murine model of retinitis pigmentosa. The drug is based on our previous screening study using iPS cells from a human patient with retinitis pigmentosa. We have tried both systemic and topical administrations to find the best way for slowing the progression of retinal degeneration.
Professor Dr Antje Grosch
My GOAP project started in January 2017. Before all contracts were fixed, we started the time-consuming crossbreeding of PDGFRαfl mice with Glast-CreERT2 mice, establishing a mouse line in which the PDGFRα can be specifically ablated in retinal Müller glia. We also performed the first immunohistological characterizations of PDGFR expression and glial responses in the retina at different time points after laser-induced CNV. As soon as my lab has been moved to the Biomedical Centre of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, we will investigate the role of PDGFRα signalling in the double transgenic mice and the CNV model.