"Retinal Stem Cells and Vision Restoration"

April 13, 2011 -
11:45am to 1:00pm

Derek van der Kooy, PhD

Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto

April 13 - 2011, 11:45am - 1:00pm

Derek van der KooyDerek van der Kooy served as Professor in the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Toronto from 1991 until 2002, when he became a Professor in the Department of Molecular Genetics. Derek received a M.Sc. in Psychology at the University of British Columbia, and a Ph.D in Anatomy, first at Erasmus University in the Netherlands, and finishing in the Department of Anatomy at the University of Toronto.  Dr. van der Kooy gained postdoctoral research experience at Cambridge University in England and at the Salk Institute in California.

The van der Kooy Lab works on various stem cell biology and developmental biology research projects. The lab has helped to characterize the properties and molecular control of adult and embryonic brain neural stem cells, and in collaboration with the lab of Sam Weiss, first localized adult mammalian neural stem cells to the ventricular lining of the brain.

The lab now works on stem cells in organisms from Drosophila to humans. Of note, Derek's lab produced the first report of stem cells in the adult mammalian eye, published in 2000 in Science. Derek’s lab also has isolated a rare stem cell from the adult mouse and human pancreas that can show extensive proliferation under completely defined conditions in vitro. 

Derek's lab continues to investigate the nature of various stem cells, and in particular, the lineage of neural stem cells from pluripotent embryonic stem cells, with particular relevance to the origin of the earliest neural stem cell in the developing embryo.

Abstract of the presentation

Retinal stem cells are present in the ciliary margin of the adult mouse and human eye. These retinal stem cells can be prospectively isolated, and thus do not arise from a transdifferentiation process come to all peripheral RPE cells.

Single adult retinal stem cells can give rise to all retinal cell types, but only a minority of these become photoreceptors when differentiated in vitro. Modulation of gene expression in retinal stem cells can greatly enrich for photoreceptor progeny, as can differentiation in the presence of taurine and retinoic acid in vitro.

Furthermore, when these RSC photoreceptor progeny are transplanted into mouse eyes, they show integration and differentiation into the outer retinal layer. Most important, electrophysiological and behavioral tests show that these transplanted cells can promote functional recovery in transducing mutant mice lacking functional rod photoreceptors.

More recent work has been directed at delivering these retinal stem cell progeny into the subretinal space within a biodegradable gel that improves the spread of the donor cells across the retina, as well as potentially their survival and integration. Finally, we have begun a search for the factors that limit the proliferation of the endogenous retinal stem cells in vivo in the adult eye.

Location and Address

Eye and Ear Boardroom, 5th floor, Eye and Ear Institute

203 Lothrop Street, Pittsburgh PA 15213