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Important Research in Progress
Promising new "ones to watch" in retina research:
Stem Cell Research
Stem cells are cells which are uniquely able to develop into many different cell types in the early development. They are unspecialized, and can be induced to become tissue or organ-specific cells with special functions.
Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are adult cells that have been genetically changed to mimic an embryonic stem cell. These iPSCs are already being developed as a tool for retinal research, and create the possibility of a renewable source of replacement cells and tissues to treat otherwise untreatable diseases.
Gene therapy is a technique for replacing disease-causing defective genes with normal genes. Currently, the most common delivery mechanism is a carrier molecule called a vector. The most common vector is a genetically altered virus, which carries the genetic material into the target cell.
Retina researchers are making great strides both in finding the right virus to carry the gene harmlessly and also in surgical technique to inject the vector into the eye.
Nanotechnology involves use of technologies on a molecular scale for diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of disease. Using engineered nanodevices and structures, scientists can study and repair human biological systems on the molecular level. Gene delivery using viral vectors and nanoparticles used in drug delivery are two current research applications for nanotechnology.
Collaboration Leads to Innovation
Bringing together scientists from diverse fields working towards common goals, collaboration in research has opened up new opportunities for growth. McPherson ERI is one example of how successful collaboration has built a solid program of innovative research.
Prevention of blindness is a worldwide priority, and much progress has been made over the last twenty years. However, retinal diseases are likely to continue being significant causes of blindness.
RRF is focused on improving ophthalmic education to prepare vision scientists for the challenges of today and of the future. Shortage of trained specialists remains a limiting factor around the globe. We are providing opportunities for advanced sub-specialty retinal training for young ophthalmologists from developing countries through international fellowships. In addition, educational opportunities through our educational programs and travel awards ensures sharing of ideas at a high level.
Progress Has Been Made in Patient Care
The goal of improved clinical treatments for retinal diseases always comes first with RRF. The first step towards designing each new treatment regimen is a scientist's idea, followed by a carefully designed pilot study. The findings resulting from these pilot studies often lead to new and larger studies. Clinical trials and then putting new treatments into widespread use in patient care are the next step, and are only possible when research has first made them possible.
Each new discovery becomes the foundation for the next as research moves the process forward. Much progress has been made, but RRF is not resting on our laurels. We are focused on the exciting developments to come through future retina research.