July 14, 2020

The Niche

Knoepfler lab stem cell blog

Masayo Takahashi (高橋 政代): exciting vision work advancing including with photoreceptors

Masayo Takahashi is a leading stem cell researcher doing translational and clinical research on vision. She’s doing pioneering work on using pluripotent stem cells as a basis for helping patients with vision loss such as due to macular degeneration. She won The Niche’s Stem Cell Person of the Year Award in 2014 and a number of other awards.

Dr. Masayo Takahashi (高橋 政代).
Dr. Masayo Takahashi (高橋 政代).

Last week I did a post on some exciting new clinical trial work starting here in the US by the NIH/NEI, and that sparked a great Twitter discussion during which Masayo Takahashi shared some exciting developments with her research.

I’m going to just share an image of some of the actual tweets below with some comments.

You can find the tweets and follow Dr. Takahashi on Twitter @masayomasayo, but here’s one link to a starting tweet too.

From her tweets, it was great to hear that the safety profile is strong and that the number of patients involved is continuing to grow. More good news is that despite using an allogeneic approach, immune suppression doesn’t seem necessary for engraftment.

It’ll be valuable to compare engraftment in this work by Dr. Takahashi’s team to that seen in the new autologous work mentioned earlier to see if there’s any meaningful difference.

Masayo Takahashi 高橋 政代
Masayo Takahashi conversation on Twitter.

It makes good sense to me to have a flexible approach to the form and deployment of the RPE product to be able to use the version of the product that is estimated to be the best fit for each patient.

The news about photoreceptors is exciting as a novel approach.

As I replied to her on Twitter, I happened to recently be teaching eye histology including retina last week to the med students here at UC Davis and I wondered to myself during our lab about vision loss clinical trials not just trying RPEs but also photoreceptors.

However, I thought it’d be really difficult to get the photoreceptors to integrate into the neural network of the retina. She mentioned in another tweet that in preliminary work they have seen connectivity between the transplanted photoreceptors and the other cells in the retina.

Overall, there’s real hope here from this news on Twitter for patients suffering from vision loss and it’s exciting for the stem cell and vision research fields.

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