Molly Shoichet

Giving Vision to Blind Mice

A new method of delivering sight-giving stem cells to blind mice has brought a new weapon in the fight against blindness and stroke.


Exciting news in the battle against blindness and stroke was published this week in Stem Cell Reports, where University of Toronto researchers tested an injectable gel to help them deliver stem cells to mice with blindness and stroke. And it worked.

This work was a collaboration between Profs. Molly Shoichet, Derek van der Kooy, Cindi Morshead, and their research teams, including: MD/PhD students Brian Ballios and Laura Donaldson, post doctoral fellow Michael Cooke, and technician Brenda Coles. Their story was covered in this article in the Globe and Mail and this article and audio interview on Radio Canada International.

One of the major obstacles to stem cell transplantation is that after injection, they often die before they can integrate into their new environment. A big part of this is that the new environment may not be all that friendly – for instance in the case of stroke or spinal cord injury – or the cells might be flushed away or not distribute well in their new space. To overcome this limitation, the reported injectable gel gives the transplanted stem cells a welcoming environment to help them thrive.

The newly published work demonstrates that this injectable gel helped give sight to mice born blind: not only did the transplanted cells survive, but they also sent signals back to the brain.

Want to learn more? Watch Prof. Shoichet’s R2R interview on the Discovery Science channel.

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Karyn Ho is a science animator and engineer who thrives at the interface between science, engineering, medicine, and art. She earned her MScBMC (biomedical communications) and PhD (chemical engineering and biomedical engineering) at the University of Toronto. Karyn is passionate about using cutting edge discoveries to create dynamic stories as a way of supporting innovation, collaboration, education, and informed decision making. By translating knowledge into narratives, her vision is to captivate people, spark their curiosity, and motivate them to share what they learned.