Science and Technology
publicado em 07/09/2011 às 14h45:00
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Graduate student research band-aid of stem cells to paste the retina

The strips can be applied to surgically damaged retinas, with the ultimate goal of restoring vision

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A graduate student at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) is working in the laboratory of one of the winners of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing a band-aid of stem cells for application to the retina.

The graduating Wilson Ho, participates in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowships (SURF), a unique opportunity for undergraduate students spend 10 weeks during the summer doing innovative research. "It feels very surreal at times. (...) The experience has been exactly what I was expecting," he said.

Ho was originally contacted by the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Robert Grubbs. He told the student that the teacher Paresma Patel was looking for an intern to help with a project of chemical synthesis related macular degeneration, a disease associated with aging that causes the death of retinal cells. It is estimated that macular degeneration affects 1.8 million Americans, with 7.3 million at risk of developing the disease. Patel's project, funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, Ho sounded so interesting that you signed up.

According to Ho of the project is the idea that the retinal cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC-RPE cells) were related to Band-Aids. Eventually, the strips can be surgically applied to damaged retinas, holding in place, the new cells long enough to be incorporated into the eye and restore vision. "You may think you could just stick to stem cells in the eye and have them work. But it's not how it works because the new cells must be maintained over the damaged tissue for some time," explains Ho.

What he is doing is trying to put a thin film of a polymer bioinerte (Parylene) with something that will stimulate the retinal cells to latch on, this is an array containing peptides with a repeat of the amino acid sequence arginine-glycine-aspartic (RGD peptide).

Previous research has shown that RGD peptides bind to receptors expressed in certain cells, hESC-RPE. Patel and Ho felt that the best cells can bind to an array of multiple layers containing RGD peptides, instead of just a single layer. Ho spent most of the summer designing and conducting a series of chemical reactions to create this matrix.

Now that the student was able to synthesize the array, it is trying to figure out a way to get it to coat the Parylene. "Make a stand on something else which is inert will obviously be a little difficult," said Ho. But he has many ideas on how to try to make it happen, and has started to test them.

These problem-solving skills, combined with attention to detail and enthusiasm for the project Ho, Patel has impressed. "Wilson surpassed the goals set during the summer and will continue doing research in the laboratory Grubbs, throughout the school year," he said.

   Palavras-chave:   Cells    Retina    Band-Aids    Surgery    Damage    Restoration    Vision    Experience    Degeneration    Peptide    Caltech    USA   
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