"Love Your Eyes"

On World Sight Day 12 October we look at the latest eye disease research from PhD student Jenna Hall (DAP) who developed an image modelling tool with BOMP which may be used for retinal and other disease analysis like Alzheimers.

Here in the School of Biomedical Sciences, our researchers are at the forefront of eye health related research. Prof Alice Pébay and her team, including PhD student Jenna Hall, in the Stem Cell Disease Modelling Laboratory (Department of Anatomy & Physiology), are investigating the vision-threatening disease Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD).

The laboratory use human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), including induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), to investigate eye disease and in particular AMD.

It’s a powerful tool as cells from selected individuals or specific genetic backgrounds can be differentiated into specific cell types to make “a biopsy in a dish” and obtain disease models for therapy development.

Prof Alice Pébay

Image: Prof Alice Pébay

PhD student, Jenna Hall, who works in the Stem Cell Disease Modelling lab with Prof Pébay has recently published a research paper in the journal, SLAS Technology. The research study looked at waste – known as drusen - that builds up in the eyes in AMD and has been shown to predict the progression to advanced AMD.

The study quantified the presence and location of drusen-like deposits that form in vitro.

Image: Jenna Hall in the laboratory

Jenna and the research team used automated light microscopy and image analysis of a large numbers of samples to find cell characteristics linked to age related macular degeneration.

“I worked with patient samples from three cohorts. We saw drusen accumulation in each cohort but it was essential to quantify the size, frequency, and location of these deposits to understand the disease cohorts compared to the control groups," Jenna said.

Together with expertise in BOMP, Jenna developed a unique imaging and analysis tool that quantifies the number of drusen-like deposits, and accurately and reproducibly provides the location and composition of these deposits.

“Prior to our research study, there was no tool available for quantifying these deposits with fluorescent imaging and 3D reconstruction. This pipeline provides a valuable tool for the in vitro modelling and drug development of AMD and other retinal diseases,” Jenna said.

Image:  Exacerbated drusen deposits

Other researchers within the Stem Cell Disease Modelling Lab have used the tool to compare amyloid plaques in Alzheimer Disease patients.

We expect this tool will be utilized by researchers needing an effective way of quantifying protein accumulates in vitro.

Jenna Hall

  • Read:  SLAS Technology Journal Article 'A semi-automated pipeline for quantifying drusen-like deposits in human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium cells'
  • Watch: In the Lab with Jenna Hall

World Sight Day 2023: Love Your Eyes

Every year, World Sight Day aims to draw attention to vision impairment and blindness around the world. This year the focus is on the importance of digital eye strain and eye care in the workplace. They advocate the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look at an object 20 feet away.

Find out more: Love Your Eyes at Work