“Retinal degeneration leads to irreversible loss of vision. Although therapies are being developed for early stages of diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, there’s no treatment option for advanced conditions. This preclinical study will provide an important proof of concept for our hypothesis that vision loss can be reversed more effectively using our novel co-graft technology,” says co-principal investigator Magdalene Seiler, UCI associate professor of physical medicine & rehabilitation. Dr. Anthony Nesburn

Magdalene Seiler, Ph.D., UCI associate professor of physical medicine & rehabilitation, has been awarded a five-year, $3,823,950 grant from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a preclinical study on rodent models of an innovative co-graft approach to repair permanently damaged retinas. Cell transplantation offers a potential therapy for those who have already lost their eyesight due to severe retinal degeneration. The goal of the project is to reverse vision loss by performing a combined transplant of retinal organoids containing photoreceptors, and a polarized retinal pigment epithelium layer, and to study connectivity between transplant and host. “RPEs and photoreceptors depend on each other for normal eye function and survival. This study will provide an important proof of concept for the efficacy of co-grafting complete transplants of the retina together with the RPE, compared to the current practice of transplanting only the retina or RPE,” Seiler said. The study is scheduled to run from May 1, 2021, to March 31, 2026. Biju Thomas, Ph.D., assistant professor of research ophthalmology at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, is co-principal investigator. This research is supported by the NIH’s National Eye Institute  under award number R01EY031834.