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Sankara Nethralaya
Sankara Nethralaya
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Department of Stem Cell
Research

Currently we are performing research in the following areas:

1) Mucosal surfaces are under the constant threat of pathogenic attack. The eye is particular case in point. In addition to elements common to other mucosal surfaces, the cornea is poorly served by blood vessels, and corneal damage, whether due to serious infection or the subsequent inflammatory response, can lead to visual loss. Like other mucosal surfaces, various mechanisms have evolved to protect the eyes from pathogen attack. So, in this project we are investigating the immunoregulatory properties of corneal stem cells.

2) Due to the limited availability of the limbal tissue and the poor outcome of allogenic transplantation have led to exploration of autologous tissue sources for transplantation. In our department we are doing research on generating corneal cells from non-ocular sources like oral mucosa, skin, dental pulp, hair follicle, bone marrow mesenchymal cells which might functionally replace the corneal cells can be considered as an alternative source for the treatment of LSCDs in future.

3) Retinal degenerative disorders like Retinitis pigmentosa, Glaucoma, cone dystrophy and age related macular degenerations are the leading causes of blindness and there are no effective treatments available till date. Various research programs are being performed worldwide to address these disorders. At Sankara Nethralaya we are working on the isolation and characterization of the retinal stem cells from non-retinal sources which are of easy accesses during ocular surgeries. Here we are successful in isolation of the stem/progenitor cells from the non-retinal sources that could be differentiated into retinal cells. With these achievements we are characterizing the differentiated retinal cells functionally and also investigating for the effective means (like scaffolds) for transplantation of these cells without any changes in the retinal biology in vitro.

4) Mueller cells the predominant glia in the retina, are being increasingly considered as source for stem cells in the retina. Studies in other animals have shown that they have the potential to generate retinal neurons. At Sankara Nethralaya, we are testing the ability of human Mueller cells to generate retinal neurons with various stimulating reagents. Once the ability of the Mueller glia is ascertained we hope to take it for transplantation studies.

5) We have also identified cancer stem cells in retinoblastoma and targeted the cancer cells by bi-specific antibody. In future we would like to proceed into Phase-I studies.