Arlington, TX, September 20, 2022—Researchers at the University of Colorado led by Valeria Canto-Soler and those from Nanoscope® led by Samarendra Mohanty, PhD were recognized as the winning top research team of the final phase of the 3D-Retinal Organoid Challenge (ROC) challenge by the National Eye Institute (NEI).
The First prize is owned by the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Nanoscope, led by Valeria Canto-Soler, PhD for the development and characterization of a retinal organoid with functional photoreceptors and RPE cell layers that can be used as a model for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in American adults.
The Second prize is owned by a Multidisciplinary team from the University of Colorado School of Medicine, led by Maria Natalia Vergara, PhD, Nanoscope, and Miami University, for the development of a retinal organoid model that is highly reproducible, making it useful for high-throughput drug screening. The same team won phase II of the challenge in 2021.
“Development of retinal organoid with outer retina can help discover and evaluate new treatments for AMD. The challenge for the field is to visualize, and measure the structure and function of different layers of the retinal organoid and retina in a very well-controlled manner without affecting their function,” said Samarendra Mohanty, PhD. Dr. Mohanty and the Nanoscope team including Michael Carlson, Sanghoon Kim, and Subrata Batabyal worked together to use near-infrared light to measure structure via reflectance from different layers and function using optical retinography.
Nanoscope has developed a portfolio of instruments for measurement and alteration of structure/function of tissue, “Our portfolio of instruments is unsurpassed, offering variable spot ERG and OCT in one platform for functional assessment (NS-NEEL), and to create different retinal degeneration models and gene therapy treatments using OCT-guided laser irradiation (NS-TARA). Each of these instruments utilize a purpose-built interface to offer researchers the capability of multi-modal workflows simultaneously”, said Madhu Rao, PhD., Executive VP of Marketing and Sales at Nanoscope Instruments Inc.
Using the NS-NEEL, Sanghoon Kim, PhD first had to understand the layered structure of the organoid, then measure the light-activated cellular activities in different layers. “One of the challenges was to obtain continuous light-stimulated activities from the organoid due to bleaching of photoreceptors. We had to strategize the stimulation and recording paradigm by optimizing the stimulation duration and intervals,” said Dr. Kim.
The team at Nanoscope congratulates all the finalists in the 3-D ROC challenge. Senior Technology Officer, Subrata Batabyal, PhD noted, “Until recently, measuring the function of cells inside a 3D tissue (e.g., organoid) for screening required invasive probing, thus destroying/contaminating the tissue preventing the use of the organoid for transplant”. Nanoscope develops de-novo solutions and instruments which leverage the teams’ basic science and engineering capabilities to advance its own therapeutic programs while providing access to others these cutting-edge instruments.
Nanoscope Instruments has strong regional, national, and international collaborations in ocular and biomedical research. In addition to probing the structure and functioning of tissues, Nanoscope® devices allow unique OCT-guided non-viral delivery of genes and other molecules to targeted areas. These products are currently used by researchers for creating models of eye diseases such as AMD, and for evaluating the efficacy of different cell-gene therapies by monitoring the structure and physiology of the retina.
Nanoscope Instruments was incorporated in 2019 and is an affiliate of Nanoscope Technologies, LLC, which was founded in 2009 by Samarendra Mohanty, PhD. Nanoscope has received several SBIR awards, National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01 grants, and patents which focus on optical stimulation, gene delivery, and imaging for neural activity monitoring.