Author(s): Lu B, Wang S, Francis PJ, Li T, Gamm DM, Capowski EE, Lund RD. Cell transplantation to arrest early changes in an ush2a animal model. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010 Apr;51(4):2269-76. doi: 10.1167/iovs.09-4526. Epub 2009 Dec 3. PMID 19959642
Purpose. Usher’s syndrome is a combined deafness and blindness disorder caused by mutations in several genes with functions in both the retina and the ear. Here the authors studied morphologic and functional changes in an animal model, the Ush2a mouse, and explored whether transplantation of forebrain-derived progenitor cells might affect the progress of morphologic and functional deterioration. Methods. Ush2a mice were tested at postnatal days (P) 70 to P727 using an optomotor test, which provides a repeatable method of estimating rodent visual acuity and contrast sensitivity. A group of mice that received grafts of forebrain-derived progenitor cells at P80 was tested for up to 10 weeks after grafting. At the end of testing, animals were killed, and eyes were processed for histology. Results. The optomotor test showed that both acuity and contrast sensitivity deteriorated over time; contrast sensitivity showed a deficit even at P70. By contrast, photoreceptor loss was only evident later than 1 year of age, though changes in the intracellular distribution of red/green cone opsin were observed as early as P80. Mice that received transplanted cells performed significantly better than control mice and no longer demonstrated abnormal distribution of red/green opsin where the donor cells were distributed. Conclusions. This study showed that vision impairment was detected well before significant photoreceptor loss and was correlated with abnormal distribution of a cone pigment. Cell transplantation prevented functional deterioration for at least 10 weeks and reversed the mislocalization of cone pigment.