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Eye Therapy News

Professor Ali honoured for his contribution to research into retinal disease

Mon, 08 Sep 2014 12:27:36 +0000

              Professor Robin Ali, PhD, Professor of Human Molecular Genetics and Head of the Department of Genetics, UCL Institute of Opthalmology has been awarded the Pioneer Award for his work in proof-of-concept studies that have demonstrated the feasibility of using gene therapy and cell transplantation to treat dysfunction and degeneration of the cells […]

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Achromatopsia might not be as progressive as previously thought

Mon, 08 Sep 2014 11:17:16 +0000

A recent publication from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, Moorfields Eye Hospital, and the Medical College of Wisconsin indicates that for the majority of people with achromatopsia, the condition may not be as progressive as previously suggested. Data from this study by Aboshiha et al. demonstrated that for the majority of people with achromatopsia (a […]

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2 Lazy 2 Run? We’re biking it for blood cancer!

Fri, 29 Aug 2014 09:30:05 +0000

  On Sunday 31 August a group of not so elite athletes from the Gene and Cell Therapy group will be taking part in the London Bikeathon 2014 to raise funds for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. The 2 Lazy 2 Run CC will be cycling 52 miles – that’s more than a marathon, no mean feet […]

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The Art of Eyes

Thu, 07 Aug 2014 14:23:19 +0000

The eye is an object of great beauty as shown by the Ophthalmologist in their July/August 2014 issue. This month’s issue features a photo essay called The Art of the Eyes and includes examples of the work from a number research labs capturing the complex and beautiful detail of the eye and its cells. The essay includes images […]

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In memoriam

Tue, 05 Aug 2014 16:02:34 +0000

Dr Yoshiki Sasai (1962 – 2014) It is with great sadness today that we remember and pay tribute to our collaborator Dr Yoshiki Sasai. Yoshiki was a world leading stem cell researcher and Deputy Director of the Riken Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan. Through his hard work and dedication over many years, Yoshiki […]

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Photoreceptor transplant restores vision in mice

22 May 2012


In an important study, the Gene and Cell Therapy Group have showed for the first time that transplanting light-sensitive photoreceptors into the eyes of visually impaired mice can restore their vision.

The results, published in Nature, suggest that transplanting photoreceptors – light-sensitive nerve cells that line the back of the eye – could form the basis of a new treatment to restore sight in people with degenerative eye diseases.

Dr. Rachael Pearson injected cells from young healthy mice directly into the retinas of adult mice that lacked functional rod photoreceptor cells - rod cells are vital for seeing in the dark as they are extremely sensitive to even low levels of light. Loss of photoreceptors is the cause of blindness in many human eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and diabetes-related blindness. 

After four to six weeks, the transplanted cells appeared to be functioning almost as well as normal rod photoreceptor cells and had formed the connections needed to transmit visual information to the brain. 

We also tested the vision of the treated mice in a dimly lit maze. Those mice with newly transplanted rod cells were able to use a visual cue to quickly find a hidden platform in the maze whereas untreated mice were able to find the hidden platform only by chance after extensive exploration of the maze.

“We’ve shown for the first time that transplanted photoreceptor cells can integrate successfully with the existing retinal circuitry and truly improve vision. We’re hopeful that we will soon be able to replicate this success with photoreceptors derived from embryonic stem cells and eventually to develop human trials. “Although there are many more steps before this approach will be available to patients, it could lead to treatments for thousands of people who have lost their sight through degenerative eye disorders. The findings also pave the way for techniques to repair the central nervous system as they demonstrate the brain’s amazing ability to connect with newly transplanted neurons.”


The cells transplanted were immature (or progenitor) rod photoreceptor cells, that are used for peripheral vision and night-vision.

We are now finding ways to improve the efficiency of cone photoreceptor transplantation and to increase the effectiveness of transplantation in very degenerate retina. We will probably need to do both in order to develop effective treatments for patients.


We have demonstrated previously, in another study published in Nature, that it is possible to transplant photoreceptor cells into an adult mouse retina, provided the cells from the donor mouse are at a specific stage of development - when the rod photoreceptors are almost, but not fully, formed. In this study we improved the procedure to increase the number of rod cells integrated into the recipient mice and so were able to restore vision.

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