“STEM CELL STRATEGIES FOR MODELLING MACULAR DEGENERATION IN VITRO”
Presented by Kathy Davidson PhD, Research Fellow, Centre for Eye Research Australia, Dept of Ophthalmology, The University of Melbourne.
TIME: 4-5pm (Refreshments to follow)
VENUE: Level 5 Seminar Room, Melbourne Brain Centre, Parkville Campus
ABSTRACT: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the developed world. There are currently no treatments for the most common forms of AMD that involve degeneration of the retinal pigmented epithelium, an essential tissue whose functions are critical for the homeostasis and health of the retina. Virtually nothing is known about the pathogenesis of AMD, however genetic background is a significant risk factor. Our current research involves reprogramming skin cells from patients with specific genetic risks associated with AMD into induced pluripotent stem cells, then differentiating these stem cells into retinal pigmented epithelial cells to create an in vitro disease model of AMD. By dissection out the signals and factors that influence how these retinal cells behave in the disease, we hope to gain insight into the underlying causes of AMD, which is an important step towards developing therapies. I will also discuss other strategies to treat retinal degenerative diseases currently being tested in the field, including the first pluripotent stem cell-based clinical trials.
BIO: Dr Davidson completed her PhD at Monash University in the laboratory of Prof Martin Pera, where she worked on elucidating the role of Wnt signaling in human pluripotent stem cells and neural progenitor cells. Kathy pursued her interest in Wnt signal transduction further as a post-doctoral fellow with Prof. Randy Moon at the University of Washington. In 2013 she joined Alice Pebay's group at the Centre for Eye Research Australia to focus on developing pluripotent stem cell-based disease models for ocular diseases. Her current research is aimed at modelling early pathogenic events involved in age-related macular degeneration.