Retina: Mechanism of Photoreceptor Degeneration and Regeneration, and Roles of Immune System
In the retina, six major classes of retinal neurons form the neural circuit, which regulates visual processing. Loss of retinal neurons, especially photoreceptors, causes blindness, which severely compromises the quality of people life. Age-dependent macular degeneration (AMD) and retinitis pigmentosa (RP) are major causes of blindness, and photoreceptors are primary degenerated in both diseases. There are more than 250 genes whose genetic mutations induce photoreceptor degeneration in human. Many research groups including us investigated molecular mechanism that underlies photoreceptor degeneration using mouse and zebrafish as animal models. However it is still far beyond to clarify the mechanism of photoreceptor degeneration and develop effective therapeutic tools.
In parallel to such basic biology approaches, efforts had been paid to establish therapy methods that rebuild neural circuit in human patient retinas by introducing stem cells and their derivative, and retinal progenitor, and photoreceptor precursors in recipient mouse retinas. Transplantation was reported to be successful in terms of rebuilt retinal circuits and visual functions in mice; however, the same research group recently found that this visual restoration does not result from donor cell contribution but from material transfer from donor transplanted cells to recipient cells. This result is surprising but depresses retinal community people, because reconstruction of neural circuits in human patient retinas is still technically very difficult.
In contrast to mammals, damaged retinas effectively regenerate in fish. Recently, it was revealed that helper T cells are promptly activated in damaged zebrafish retina and triggers a cytokine TNF-alpha, which subsequently promotes Muller glia to start regeneration program. In addition, microglia also respond to injury or degeneration of retinal neurons. After these inflammatory response ceases, retinal regeneration program is fully activated. So, it is likely that immune cells play a critical role in the transition between photoreceptor degeneration and regeneration. Thus, elucidation on this role of immune system may enable us to overcome the current difficulty in therapy for retinal patients.
In this workshop, we will invite 15 excellent researchers, who are investigating the mechanism of retinal degeneration, retinal regeneration and the roles of microglia and helper T cells in retinal regeneration. The workshop is designed to enable participants to overview each of these topics. So, the workshop provides a platform where all the participants actively interact with each other, share their data, and exchange their new ideas, hopefully leading to future collaboration.
Further information on the workshop and on how to apply will be updated shortly.
Applications will be accepted from 15 April to 31 May, 2019.
OIST is deeply committed to the advancement of women in science, in Japan and worldwide. Women are strongly encouraged to apply.