NSCI Researchers and University at Albany Doctoral Student Discover that Nicotinamide May Target Age-Related Macular Degeneration

       RENSSELAER N.Y., January 26, 2017 Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive degenerative disease of the retina, is the leading cause of blindness in the elderly. Patients with AMD gradually lose central vision, severely compromising the ability of a person to perform everyday tasks, including reading. AMD affects more than 10 million people in the US and is projected to increase to 196 million in 2020 worldwide. Researchers at the Neural Stem Cell Institute, including the University at Albany graduate student Janmeet Saini, have now published a breakthrough finding about AMD in the high impact journal Cell Stem Cell.

In AMD, the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), a pigmented layer of cells lying beneath and supporting the retina, degenerates. AMD occurs in two forms, dry and wet. While there are therapies for the wet form of AMD, there are no approved therapies for the dry form of AMD. The advent of induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSCs), and their ability to generate any cell type in the body, has enabled the creation of cell culture models of disease that enable rapid drug screening for potential therapeutic agents.

Saini and investigators at the NSCI derived iPSCs from AMD and normal individuals, and used these to create pure populations of RPE cells. The iPSC derived RPE from AMD patients exhibited higher expression of complement and inflammatory factors than those from healthy people. Complement is a vital system of immune surveillance in humans that protects our cells from foreign pathogens. However, with aging and in several disorders including Alzheimer’s disease and AMD, the complement system can become deregulated resulting in tissue damage. Researchers at NSCI showed that RPE treated with Nicotinamide, a vitamin B3 derivative, showed reduced signs of abnormal AMD proteins in the cultured RPE cells, and significant suppression of complement and inflammatory pathways, as well as improved RPE cell survival. Nicotinamide treatment also inhibited production of factors such as VEGF-A, which may also help slow the progression to wet AMD. Further studies of the way Nicotinamide protects RPE cells should aid the development of novel AMD therapies, with the goal of preserving vision in the elderly.

About NSCI: NSCI, the first independent, non-profit stem cell research institute in the United States, is a unique research organization that produces leading stem cell science with the goal of developing novel therapies for diseases of the retina, brain and spinal cord. NSCI has a team of over 30 researchers focused on bringing impactful therapies to patients.

MEDIA CONTACT: Suzanne Kawola (518) 694-8188 or (518) 542-7895

 

 

Graduate Student Amber Frye Inaugural Recipient of Jean Temple Award

We are pleased to announce Amber Frye as the inaugural recipient of the Jean Temple Award for Retinal Disease Research.

img_1399-1From early childhood, Amber has been fascinated with the eye, from the complex process of retinal development to the degeneration of retinal cells during disease. Her passion has led her to develop a career in retinal disease research, focusing primarily on glaucoma and age related macular degeneration (AMD). Her long term career goal is to continue to pursue this research and potential therapies. In thinking about her research focus, Amber was impacted by learning that people fear going blind more than getting cancer. Even as her own father fought cancer, he told Amber that he would still rather have cancer then go blind, which further strengthened her resolve. As there are few therapies that slow or prevent blinding diseases, this is an area of great unmet medical need, and Amber is determined to make a difference.

Through dedication to scholarship and a true passion for understanding the way biological systems work Amber is the first member of her family to go college. She completed her undergraduate degree in 2009 at Utah State University and since then has worked in several laboratories, contributing to research programs, often working full time, and taking graduate courses in Neuroscience, Molecular biology and biomedical sciences with the goal of eventually attending graduate school. For four years she worked as a researcher on retinal physiology and glaucoma at the University of Utah. Amber’s work is published in Scientific Reports and her achievement resulted in an invitation to speak at the 2012 annual Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meeting, an honor given to only a few select researchers. Her work on TRPV4, a molecule that helps detect intraocular pressure changes in the eye, is important not only for people who develop glaucoma, but also for individuals who suffer traumatic injury to the eye.

In 2015 Amber joined the Retinal Stem Cell Consortium at the Neural Stem Cell Institute, to help bring a novel stem cell therapy into the clinic for Age Related Macular Degeneration. Amber has proven to be a wonderful, dedicated team member who consistently performs at the highest level, and who generously gives help wherever it is needed.

In September 2016, Amber entered the Master’s degree program in the Department of Biomedical Sciences at the University at Albany, finally attaining her goal to enter graduate study. She is using cutting edge stem cell technology to understand how the retina develops, and to identify new ways to generate human retinal cells that could, in the future, be used for transformative therapies to prevent and reverse blindness. Amber’s passion and dedication to research, her positive and helpful attitude and generosity of spirit, and her enthusiasm to take on significant challenges, make her a most worthy recipient of the inaugural Jean Temple award for Retina Disease Research.

Jean Temple Award for Retinal Disease Research

Jean Temple was soft spoken with a gentle spirit and a wonderful sense of humor. She not only cared for her loved ones, but also her community, dedicated to her work as a nurse for over 30 years. She enjoyed the simple pleasures of life: reading, baking, gardening and visiting with friends. Her diagnosis of Age-Related Macular Degeneration was devastating to her and those who loved her. Macular degeneration takes away the ability to enjoy life’s simple pleasures, such as reading, it takes away the ability to see faces and interact with others, but most importantly, it takes away one’s independence. Jean Temple passed away at age 90 in February 2016, but her generosity, strength and spirit will be remembered through this award. As she cared for her family and community, we care for her memory by honoring a dedicated and passionate young scientist who seeks to understand and develop therapies for retinal disease.

Support NSCI on November 29th, #GivingTuesday

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Celebrate your kindness on #GivingTuesday.

On #GivingTuesday, a national day of donation, consider a gift to the Neural Stem Cell Institute. Your gift gets us closer to therapies for incurable diseases of the central nervous system including Macular Degeneration, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Spinal Cord Injury and Autism. Your support inspires our ongoing research and brings us closer to cures.

Your gracious contribution can be made by clicking here. Or, by mailing a check made out to Regenerative Research Foundation to: 1 Discovery Drive, Rensselaer, NY 12144.

Or, as you begin your holiday shopping simply include us through Amazon Smile. When you shop at Amazon the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price from your eligible smile.amazon.com purchases.

  1. Go to https://smile.amazon.com ,
  2. log in to your amazon account
  3. Choose “Regenerative Research Foundation” in Rensselaer, it should look like this…
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  4. Now, when ever you shop at Amazon you’ll see that you are supporting us…
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However you choose to give, we celebrate your support. Your gift gets us closer to helping so many.  Thank you!

Annual Stem Cell Soiree

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The Neural Stem Cell Institute hosted the 5th Annual Stem Cell Soiree on Friday, September 30, 2016 at 90 State Street in Albany, NY.

The Master of Ceremonies was WNYT Health Reporter, Benita Zahn. Delicious food and beverages provided by the extraordinary Mazzone Catering and entertainment by The Audiostars was thoroughly enjoyed.

Please join us next year for this meaningful and exciting evening in support of our research. Hear how our ongoing scientific work could impact the lives of individuals and families in our community and all over the world who are suffering from incurable nervous system disease. Details are being arranged currently. 

If you are interested in volunteering for the 2017 Soiree Planning Committee, contact Suzanne Kawola: suzannekawola@neiralsci.org or 518.694.8188 x242

 

5th Annual Stem Cell Soiree – September 30th, 2016

Please join us for this meaningful and exciting evening in support of our research. Hear how our ongoing scientific work could impact the lives of individuals and families in our community and all over the world who are suffering from incurable nervous system disease. Stem Cell Soiree Save the Date_Online