Embryonic, induced pluripotent (iPS), and adult stem cells have great potential for treating a variety of diseases, including eye maladies such as macular degeneration.

In another project, funded by grants from The US Army Research Office, The UC Discovery Program, and Allergan Medical, Inc., adult human adipose stem cells are being investigated for use in soft tissue regeneration.

Human embryonic stem cells differentiating into precursors cells of the retina. Nuclei are in blue. Pink indicates the presence of Pax6, a protein found in retinal tissue. The retinal pigment epithelium is the tissue responsible for macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness.

We are interested in identifying and understanding the external molecular cues that guide the development of neurons. These include secreted extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules and cell surface molecules that influence cell fate, cell adhesion and migration, axon pathfinding, and synapse formation.

One of the reasons for studying development is this: perhaps knowledge gained would be useful in designing treatments for degenerative diseases.