Basic Science Research
Retina: Ocular Cell Transplantation
The Ocular Cell Transplantation
Laboratory is the basic science research division, which focuses on the
development of transplantation technology for the treatment of a variety of retinal diseases, e.g., age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa.
Co-directed by Dr. Marco Zarbin and Ms. Ilene Sugino, the
goal of this laboratory is to functionalize cell-based therapy as a treatment
option for patients with geographic atrophy, the advanced form of dry
AMD. The aim of cell-based therapy for AMD
is to replace diseased, dying, or absent retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) resulting from aging or AMD.
A major obstacle to successful RPE transplantation in AMD patients is the
failure of transplanted cells to survive and become functional in the patient's eye.
RPE transplantation in AMD patients typically has, so far, produced only limited visual
recovery. An important limitation to RPE transplantation success is age- and/or
AMD-related modification of Bruch’s membrane, the surface on which transplanted
RPE must survive. Such changes to Bruch's membrane appear to have a significant
effect on RPE graft survival. Evidence from aged and AMD donor eye-based organ
culture assays performed in our laboratory are predictive of the poor survival observed in patients receiving RPE transplants, even when healthy RPE cells, i.e., cultured fetal human RPE and RPE derived from human
embryonic stem cells, are
Utilizing the organ culture assay, the Ocular Cell Transplantation Laboratory
research team has discovered a biological mixture that supports attachment and
long-term survival of RPE cells, including those derived from human
embryonic stem cells, transplanted into early and late AMD donor eyes. Current studies are
aimed at identifying bioactive components, with the long-term goal of
developing a synthesized mixture of bioactive molecules to be used as an adjunct
to RPE replacement therapy, thus supporting graft survival and functionality in AMD
For more information on current research efforts of the Ocular Cell Transplantation Laboratory, please contact the Chairman, Marco A. Zarbin, MD, PhD, FAACS (pictured above) or the Laboratory Director, Ilene Sugino, MS (pictured above).