Professor Andy Fischer, PhD, of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Neurological Institute is working to unlock the key to treating degenerative eye diseases. If successful, his work within the Department of Neuroscience could mean that some of the most pernicious human retinal diseases could become a thing of the past.
Although Dr. Fischer’s research is in the early stages, it could one day lead to healing degenerative diseases, including glaucoma, macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, a group of disorders that involve breakdown and loss of cells in the retina. The Department of Defense (DOD) is interested in his work for its potential to treat eye injuries.
He is researching the development, regeneration and survival of cells in the retina. A significant focus of this work is retina regeneration, using neural stem cells derived from the support cells of the retina called the Müller glia. For the past 16 years, Dr. Fischer has been studying the retinas of different species, including zebra fish, chickens, mice and rhesus macaques.
Single cell RNA sequencing is currently being used to identify changes in expression among the thousands of genes within thousands of individual cells from injured and regenerated retinas. The long-term goal of the research is to understand how retinas regenerate in fish, and what restricts regeneration in chicks, mice and primates. Methods to reprogram Müller glia into neurogenic progenitor cells have the potential to be developed into therapies to treat degenerative retinal diseases of the human eye.
In related work, Fischer is working with Colleen Cebulla, MD, PhD, who was awarded a $1.9 million DOD grant in 2018 to study therapeutic treatments for retinal detachment. Her interdepartmental team is researching how to prevent cell death and scar tissue leading to vision loss.
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