Right Turn: Seeing the potential of retinal stem cells

Author: Ben Paylor, 11/07/14

The well known expression that “the eyes are the gateway to the soul” has tragic connotations in the context of retinal disease. Rhetoric aside, the potential for regenerative medicine to improve our ability to treat ocular disease and injury makes it an exciting area of stem cell research. It is also one that has made considerable recent gains toward being a therapeutic reality including a clinical trial being run by recent “Stem Cell Person of the Year 2014” awardee Masayo Takahashi.

In planning the second phase of our StemCellShorts project, retinal stem cells were an obvious choice for inclusion. I think there are few people in the Stem Cell Network who haven’t heard Derek van der Kooy explain that this type of stem cell is the only one visible to the naked eye, a powerful notion that allows everyone to connect with stem cells in real life. I remember first seeing Derek in the Canadian Stem Cell Charter video when I started my PhD in 2010, and the impression has lingered ever since.

We’re excited to launch our sixth StemCellShorts video today and extend the series to cover information about tissue-specific stem cells and their applications toward treating human disease. We would also like to thank Brian Ballios, an MD/PhD student in Derek van der Kooy’s lab for helping us add some finesse to this video. Production is currently underway for the seventh (What is a blood stem cell? Narrated by Dr. Connie Eaves) and eighth (What is a neural stem cell? Narrated by Dr. Sam Weiss) videos to end this series, as well as some exciting new content being developed with Dr. Jeff Biernaskie’s group at the University of Calgary. Stay tuned!


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Ben Paylor

Ben Paylor

Ben Paylor completed a Bachelor of Medical Science at the University of Western Ontario, which included a 1-year research exchange to Umea in Northern Sweden. Following his Bachelors, he completed a 2-year Masters of Philosophy in Cardiovascular Biology and Medicine at Maastricht University in the Netherlands. He is currently a PhD candidate in the Experimental Medicine program under the supervision of Dr. Fabio Rossi at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on understanding the role of tissue-resident mesenchymal progenitors in repair processes of the heart. Outside of science, Ben is an avid pianist and tennis player, as well as being very interested in the field of science communication and policy.  The writer and director of several award-winning science films, Ben is also the co-founder and director of InfoShots (www.infoshots.com), a science-based animation studio that is currently producing the Stem Cell Network's StemCellShorts series. Ben is the Chair of the Trainee Communications Committee at the Stem Cell Network, sits on the National Advisory Committee of the high school outreach program StemCellTalks and is a 2012/13 Action Canada fellow.
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One Response

  1. Irv Arons says:

    A New Approach for Repairing/Rejuvenating Damaged Photoreceptors April 2014

    The use of retinal progenitor cells to repair or rejuvenate damaged or destroyed photoreceptors (rods and cones) to restore vision in those with lost vision due to photoreceptor damage is now possible and will soon be starting human clinical testing.

    To read the complete story, please follow this link: http://tinyurl.com/RetProgenCells

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