Highlights from the 3rd meeting of the working groups on retinal research in Marburg and Giessen.
The third meeting of the working groups involved in retinal research was held recently at the Anatomical Institute in Giessen, a week before medical students began swarming back into the institutions.
The meeting was opened by Heidrun Deissler of the Department of Ophthalmology (Retinal Vascular Disease Laboratory) in Giessen. Heidrun provided valuable insights into the effects of VEGF-A and angiopoietin-2 on bovine retinal endothelial cells. Angiopoietin-2 was shown to affect the proliferation of these cells but did not alter their barrier function. In contrast, VEGF-A plays a critical role in affecting the barrier function of the cells by influencing impedance, as observed in the real-time cell analyzer (RTCA).
After this insightful introduction, Moritz Lindner of the Institute of Physiology and Pathophysiology, Department of Neurophysiology in Marburg, Germany, took the floor. Moritz's talk was titled "Interference of native and prosthetic optogenetic vision." The focus of his talk was on the application of optogenetic therapies to diseases that lead to photoreceptor degeneration, such as retinitis pigmentosa. The audience learned a lot about the electroretinogram and how the A wave is generated by photoreceptors and the B wave by bipolar cells. He explained the different activities measured in dark-adapted mice, with mainly rods being active and cones being active under light conditions. Moritz emphasized that optogenetic therapy primarily targets bipolar cells that respond to light stimuli. The talk also addressed how the retina responds when photoreceptors are still present, showing that signaling is more attenuated in a healthy retina with optogenetic therapy than in a retina without it. This finding stimulated much discussion, particularly in light of ongoing gene therapy research, and made the session particularly interesting and engaging for all participants.
Hannah Wolf from our group then presented her latest findings on the effects of oxidative stress on retinal and brain endothelial cells, using the RTCA instrument and immunostaining. She highlighted the observable differences between the two cell types, sparking curiosity and questions from the audience about the causes of these differences. Our group is eagerly awaiting the publication of Hannah's manuscript, which will make this important data available to all.
The final talk of the session was given by Maria Weller from the Laboratory of Experimental Ophthalmology in Giessen. Maria gave deep insights into her dissertation, in which she successfully cultured procine retinal explants in vitro for up to 20 days. She identified a medium that kept both bipolar and photoreceptor cells looking healthy and vital. However, she also reported that the extended establishment time did not contribute significantly to the success of in vitro AAV therapy. It was not until she completed her PhD and changed the receipt of porcine eyes that she succeeded in both culturing and virus treatment of retinal explants. The entire audience jonis her in hoping that these results can be replicated in future research.
The meeting was not just about formal presentations, but also provided an opportunity for networking and socializing. Over pizza, organized by the fantastic hosts in Giessen, our new master's students Antonia Nickel and Jasmin Bergert were warmly welcomed to the retinal research community.
The meeting provided a relaxed yet stimulating platform for discussions about retinal research at the local level and the participants look forward to many more meetings of this kind in the future. Sharing knowledge and ideas in such a supportive and collaborative environment promises exciting developments in the field of retinal research.