DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science Engineering

More Than Meets the Eye

Research Conducted by Dean Rabbany and Bioengineering Alum Published in Prestigious Nature Journal

Research conducted by Dean Sina Rabbany and bioengineering alum Pierre Llanos ’16 on the role that the retina plays in age-related, macular degeneration was recently published the journal Nature Communications.

Their study, Concerted Regulation of Retinal Pigment Epithelium Basement Membrane and Barrier Function by Angiocrine Factors, investigated how endothelial cells regulate the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) located in the outer layer of the retina. The RPE is an unusual cell that performs many functions essential for our ability to see. It is critical for the survival and function of retinal photoreceptors, which are present in the outer region of the retina. Abnormalities in the RPE are a contributing factor in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that affects a small area in the center of the retina and blurs the sharp, central vision we use to read and see fine detail.  No blood vessels penetrate through the RPE to the outer retina. Instead, the blood supply for the photoreceptors is provided by the choroid.

“Our experiments suggest a model in which endothelial cells, the building blocks of the blood vessels, regulate RPE barrier function by secreting factors that promote the assembly of stiffer collagen bundles in RPE’s basement membrane,” Dr. Rabbany said.

Dr. Rabbany and Llanos, who is currently a research assistant at Columbia University Medical School, conducted their research, in collaboration with colleagues at Weill Cornell Medical College, in the Cell and Tissue Engineering Lab utilizing Hofstra’s atomic force microscope (AFM). The AFM was used to measure the stiffness of human fetal retinal pigment epithelium extracellular matrix, hence characterizing the biomechanical aspects of these collagen structures.

Hofstra AFM is among many sophisticated pieces of equipment that are used by undergraduates who are engaged in research with Hofstra faculty.


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