Ocular Research Symposium Focuses on Sight Restoration Through Stem Cell Therapy

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On June 13th, the Ocular Research Symposia Foundation, Inc. gathered fifteen of the world’s most prominent ophthalmology clinicians and researchers to share their most recent progress in the use of stem cell therapy toward the restoration of human sight.

ORSF 2015 Stem Cell Therapy Symposium

ORSF 2015 Stem Cell Therapy Symposium

Glaucoma is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in the USA and around the world. Stem cell therapy has the potential to not only decelerate the loss of vision in glaucoma but to reverse its course and even improve vision. Dr. Gerald J. Chader

For the past 16 years, the Ocular Research Symposia Foundation, Inc. (ORSF), or its predecessor, has brought together the top medical doctors and scientists from around the world to present and discuss their accomplishments in the field of ophthalmology. This year’s symposium focused on the rapidly advancing field of stem cell therapy to restore sight. The symposium was supported, in part, by a conference grant from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine (CIRM)—“California’s Stem Cell Agency.”

Much of the discussion in this year’s symposium revolved around the sources, characteristics, availability, safety, ethics, reprogramming, mass generation and efficient surgical delivery of regenerative stem cells. Addressed were specific strategies for regeneration of retinal photoreceptor cells, the primary cells of the visual process. Mimicking ocular diseases using stem cell technologies was another hot topic.

On a very positive note, the experts agreed that eye disease is the “lowest hanging fruit” in terms of therapeutic stem cell issues, including solutions to possible immunological rejection. The ease of access to eye tissues, availability of animal models of ocular disease, and non-invasive evaluation of transparent ocular tissues after stem cell transplantation are just a few of the reasons for this belief.

Stem cell clinical applications were individually addressed for diseases affecting tissues from the front to the back of the eye.

Covered were diseases of the cornea and ocular surface such as Dry Eye and Glaucoma, and vascular diseases including Diabetic Retinopathy, Retinal Vein Occlusion, Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and inherited retinal degenerative diseases such as Retinitis Pigmentosa. For many of these conditions, participants shared exciting information from current clinical trials, giving added hope for significant sight restoration. The symposium ended with a spirited discussion on planning the next generation of clinical trials.

Gerald J. Chader, Ph.D., USC Eye Institute and Department of Ophthalmology at USC, and Michael Young, Ph.D., Co-Director, Ocular Regenerative Medicine Institute, Harvard Medical School, were the co-chairs of this year’s symposium. Joining them were prominent researchers and clinicians from such path-breaking institutions as the Scheie Eye Institute at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the Wilmer Institute of Johns Hopkins Medical School, the National Eye Institute, UCLA’s Jules Stein Institute, UC Davis’ Eye Center, the London Project to Cure Blindness and RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology (Japan).

As with the two prior symposia, research from each of the fifteen participants will be collected in a report to be published as a special issue of “IOVS: Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science” magazine in cooperation with ARVO, the Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology. All of ORSF’s previous publications are available for download on its website. The ORSF’s reports disseminate the latest knowledge to the field and the interested public alike, and provide guidance for pinpointing promising areas of ocular therapy and research.


The Ocular Research Symposia Foundation, Inc. (ORSF) emerged from the Drabkin Research Symposia founded by Robert Drabkin in 2002. ORSF incorporated as a non-profit 501(c) (3) based in California in 2012. It seeks to continue the catalytic role of its symposia in the breaking down of academic silos and making the exchange of critical information possible.

Tax deductible donations made via the ORSF website will support future symposia, sponsor expert international attendance, help publish reports, and spread the latest information throughout the ocular research field.

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