Congressman Sessions Visits
U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) visited NIH Mar. 27 to meet with NEI Director Dr. Michael Chiang and to tour NEI’s section on ocular and stem cell translational research, led by Dr. Kapil Bharti. Bharti’s lab is pioneering applications for patient-derived stem cells.
Sessions sparked the 2017 NEI 3D Retina Organoid Challenge, a prize competition to develop systems for making tissues that closely resemble the eye’s light-sensing retina.
“Regenerative medicine has made remarkable strides over the past decade, due in no small part to our federal investment in stem cell research,” Chiang said.
In 2007, Japanese scientists led by Dr. Shinya Yamanaka first reported a method to induce mature human cells into a state of pluripotency—the ability to turn into nearly any cell in the body. The discovery won Yamanaka a Nobel Prize and opened a flood of research into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
In 2020, less than 15 years after Yamanaka’s discovery—Bharti and his NEI collaborators launched a clinical trial of patient-derived retinal tissue to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—one of the most common causes of blindness among older Americans.
Bharti’s group is also developing iPS cell-derived tissue models with techniques such as bioprinting to study disease and screen for new drugs for AMD and inherited degenerative eye diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa.