Co PI Stephen Badylak
Title Applying extracellular matrix technology to neuroprotect and to repair injured retina and optic nerve
Description: ECM technology as an early preventative for reducing secondary ocular trauma. After ocular trauma, secondary injury due to inflammation and a default healing response that forms scar tissue, in injured central nervous system (CNS) tissues, are major factors contributing to permanent vision loss. To address this problem, we are developing an injectable, ECM hydrogel and an ECM biohybrid wrap. Both platforms are designed to stabilize trauma to the retina or to the optic nerve and limit inflammation, edema, and scarring. ECM technology uses natural ECM bioscaffolds, derived by decellularizing specific tissues or organs, to promote a positive healing response in tissues the body is unable to repair functionally by default. In both preclinical and clinical models, ECM bioscaffolds can facilitate site-specific, functional repair in various peripheral tissues, including heart, lung, esophagus, muscle, tendon, skin, and peripheral nerves among others. Though the exact mechanisms are unknown, ECM bioscaffolds act, in part, by attracting endogenous stem cells and promoting site-appropriate differentiation, vascularization, neurogenesis, and a pro-repair M2 phenotype in macrophage and microglia. We hypothesize ECM technology will preserve or restore visual function by altering the default healing response to retinal or optic nerve injury in four key areas: 1) Increase RGC survival and axon regeneration. 2) Increase endogenous stem cell recruitment to the wound. 3) Increase M2 polarization in macrophages and microglia at the wound site. 4) Decrease glial scarring.