Engineering organoids from stem cells to model retina diseases

Gray Camp joined the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB) as Group Leader in Single Cell Genomics. His group will combine single-cell genomic tools and retina and cerebral "organoids" to explore the development of the human visual system. So-called "organoids" are three-dimensional (3D) tissues that are engineered from stem cells and can be grown in a petri dish, where they behave similarly to real developing organs.

Gray Camp and his group will generate organoids from patient-specific stem cells to model retina diseases and will use exciting new methods to measure the activity of genes in individual cells in order to monitor the effectiveness of novel gene and pharmacological therapies. The team will also work with engineers to develop next-generation organoid technologies to study vascularization, cell maturation and crosstalk between diverse cell lineages.

"We are delighted that Gray will pursue his ambitious research program here at IOB. It will contribute to a better understanding of the molecular development and organization of the visual system, with a major focus on the eye, at the single cell level. Gray's broad expertise in single-cell genomics, stem cell-derived 3D organoids and comparative primate genomics will foster our creative and integrative approaches to studying the human visual system", says Botond Roska, Head of the IOB Molecular Research Center.

Gray is a molecular biologist and genomicist interested in human organ development. He joins us from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. He previously studied human developmental and evolutionary genomics at Stanford University and performed his doctoral research on gene regulation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In addition to studying human eye development and disease, Gray will also work on projects to understand how human cells became unique from other primates. Gray has just received a € 1.5 million ERC Starting Grant for his work with 3D tissues grown from stem cells. "My group likes to think how diverse cells are generated during organ formation, how these cells organize themselves in complex microenvironments, and how this process can fail during genetic and other disorders. We also want to know how our organs are different from other primates, and we are fascinated by the mechanisms that make our cells uniquely human. This evolutionary perspective has important implications for personalized medicine, in terms of understanding the origins of disease, and how treatments could vary not only between humans and other mammals, but also between different human beings," he explains.


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