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Catalyst for a Cure: The Research Collaboration Continues

The goal of the Catalyst for a Cure Vision Restoration Initiative is to explore and develop novel strategies to protect, repair and even replace lost retinal nerve cells and help them reconnect with the visual brain.

In this article from the September 2020 Gleams newsletter, the Catalyst for a Cure principal investigators report on their latest challenges and progress to date.

Yang Hu, MD, PhD “The shelter in place order created a problem for our research program initially. But with moral and scientific support from the Catalyst for a Cure consortium, we adapted to the ‘new normal’ quickly to communicate more often, generate new collaborations, and restart our planned experiments once the situation permitted. We continue to be optimistic about the progres and impact of our collaborations in neuroprotection and regeneration.”

Xin Duan, PhD “We are very excited about this opportunity and we appreciate the support, but we also have a time urgency to achieve our goal. To be successful, I feel like this goal of vision restoration is something that requires research collaboration. At my UCSF laboratory, this CFC collaboration is allowing me to test a lot of new ideas that wouldn’t have been possible in the past. For example, we can now directly test neuroprotective and regenerative cues using the very best glaucoma research models available, and also translate the work to human glaucomatous conditions.”

Derek Welsbie, MD, PhD “We’re very excited about what the CFC team has been able to accomplish so far. Working with the other three labs, we’ve been able to identify a set of genes that are involved in keeping retinal ganglion cells alive and allowing their fibers to regenerate back to the brain. As a team, we’re working to improve that regeneration even further and aiming to transplant cells into the retina. We believe we’ve overcome a major challenge of keeping the optic nerve cells alive while re-growing their axons, something that was previously considered not possible to do.”

Anna La Torre, PhD “Because of our work this last year, we are now in a unique position to advance the technologies for retinal ganglion cell replacement. We will test several experimental conditions with the goal of improving the efficiency of the cell transplants. Similarly, we will follow-up the molecular approach to protect the cells from degeneration and extend axons. And we will also combine these two strategies, treating the cells we are transplanting with the drug that we now know can protect the cells from damage and enhance the nerve growth. We’re hoping this approach will improve the transplantation efficiency, bringing us one step closer to vision restoration.”

Last reviewed on September 16, 2020

This article appeared in the September 2020 issue of Gleams.

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