Let There Be Light: two biophotonic approaches to boost retinal ganglion cell transplantation as a cure for blindness

01 November 2022 → 31 October 2024
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Cellular interactions and extracellular matrix
    • Cell therapy
    • Ophtalmology
    • Transplantation surgery
cell delivery barriers pulsed laser technology stem cell delivery to the retina
Project description

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness worldwide. Its primary hallmark is the progressive loss of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) which inevitably results in vision loss. Current treatments largely focus on delaying vision impairment by lowering the intraocular pressure, yet this is often insufficient. A revolutionary cure could be the replacement of lost neurons by transplantation of stem-cell derived RGCs. Surely, earlier studies indicate that RGC replacement is a feasible and promising concept, yet several obstacles stand in the way of its clinical translation. The principal objective of this project is therefore to propel the field of RGC replacement forward by tackling two significant barriers currently hampering the advancement of RGC transplantation, retinal gliosis and the inner limiting membrane (ILM). Specifically, this project explores two light-based approaches in order to mitigate these barriers, i.e. photobiomodulation and ILM photodisruption. Since our preliminary data indicate that pulsed laser treatment can impact Müller cell gliosis, this project intends to investigate this finding of ‘photobiomodulation’ further with the aim of creating an appealing habitat for the RGCs to develop. With ILM photodisruption, on the other hand, we can disturb the ILM in a tunable and controllable manner by the creation of vapour nanobubbles, rendering it an ideal method to generate pores for the cells to migrate through.