ARVO 2022: Prize-Winning Posters
The Members-in-Training Outstanding Poster Awards showcase the latest research breakthroughs in vision research
As today’s science is tomorrow’s world, so is today’s vision research tomorrow’s ophthalmology practice. Here, we showcase a selection of the recent Members-in-Training Outstanding Poster winners from ARVO 2022 in Denver, Colorado, USA.
Complements to the scientist
The classical complement pathway has been shown to have a key role in neuroinflammation and damage that occurs in glaucoma, but where does the alternative pathway fit in? Lead author Cindy Hoppe, from Schepens Eye Research Institute, Boston, Massachusetts, USA, found that inhibiting the alternative complement pathway protected nerve fiber layer thickness, visual acuity, and retinal ganglion cells – all in mouse models of glaucoma or optic nerve injury. This presents an interesting pathway to investigate for treatments of glaucoma and optic nerve pathologies.
Hoppe elaborated on her ARVO experience and the impact of her research:
“This has been my first in-person conference and it was a great experience! I am so grateful for the opportunity to present our research at ARVO, and it was fantastic to interact and talk to people about our work at my poster. I received some amazing feedback, great suggestions, and ideas for future experiments! It was also inspiring to listen to all the pioneering eye researchers presenting their latest work.
Our research shows that the alternative pathway plays an important role in glaucoma, and I hope that it will ultimately lead to improved glaucoma therapies and prevent vision loss. The next steps of our work would be to test alternative pathway inhibitors to validate this as a potential target for glaucoma treatment. We also aim to find the mechanism of how the alternative pathway contributes to retinal ganglion cell death.”
Finding the way with VR
White mobility canes and echolocation are the common tools used by people with ultra-low vision (ULV) to make their way about the world around them. This is most effective in well-known areas, but there is limited information on how useful these techniques are when moving further afield. Arathy Kartha from Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, USA, is using virtual reality (VR) to both assess people’s ability to navigate with ULV, and as a rehabilitation and training tool for wayfinding – hopefully reducing the risk of collisions from the safety of a VR world. Their findings show that the VR wayfinding exercise matched the visual acuity of the ULV participants.
Lock, stock, and two smoking barriers
The blood-retinal barrier (BRB) is a dual-component system, with both inner and outer barriers. But how do endothelial cells differ dependent on their side of the tracks? Soojin Kim, from University of Ulsan College of Medicine, in Songpa-gu, Seoul, South Korea, found that retinal and choroidal primary human endothelial cells have distinct properties. The choroidal, outer barrier is size selective and allows metabolic support through vascular transcytosis, whereas the retinal, inner barrier forms a tight barrier and is responsible for equilibrium in the eye.
Acute or gradual photoreceptor death is part and parcel of degenerative retinal dystrophies. Marina Pavlou of the University of Washington in Seattle, USA, is reprogramming Müller glia cells to generate neurons in adult mice after light damage has occurred – primarily by inducing Müller glial cell-specific overexpression of proneural transcription factor Ascl1. The work is a step towards better understanding of reprogramming could be used in photoreceptor degeneration models, and hopefully brings us closer to retinal regeneration in late stages of disease.
Pavlou shared these comments on her experience at ARVO 2022:
“It was an incredible opportunity to present my work to my peers face-to-face again, and it was exciting to see a shift in ophthalmology research towards higher-risk and higher-reward projects.”
Engineered virus-like particles (eVLPs) may be the answer to improving the safety profile for genome editing in the eye. Samuel Du of USC Irvine School of Medicine in California, USA, is using eVLPs, developed in house, to deliver genomic editors to the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). Their method corrects mutations with a similar on-target interaction success rate, and a significantly lower bystander and off-target editing compared to viral delivery. The modification of eVLP surface will enable direct delivery to photoreceptors, and hopefully open the door to safer CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing in future.
Du also had this to say about ARVO 2022 and the impact of his work:
“I had an excellent time at my first ARVO conference. It was great to meet everyone and learn about all the advances in the field. We think that eVLPs are a promising approach for the delivery of genome editors to the eye. We believe that they will help solve an unmet need for inherited retinal disease treatment, and I look forward to seeing people use them in future work! I also want to acknowledge the UC Irvine School of Medicine and Knights Templar Eye Foundation for supporting my travel to ARVO.”
The lion’s share of my PhD was spent in the lab, and though I mostly enjoyed it (mostly), what I particularly liked was the opportunity to learn about the latest breakthroughs in research. Communicating science to a wider audience allows me to scratch that itch without working all week only to find my stem cell culture has given up the ghost on the Friday (I’m not bitter). Fortunately for me, it turns out writing is actually fun – so by working for Texere I get to do it every day, whilst still being an active member of the clinical and research community.