What Squirrels Can Teach Us About Treating Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The 13-lined ground squirrel falls into a hibernation state each year. During this shutdown, the squirrel's eyes sustain damage that is similar to the damage of age-related macular degeneration. Yet each year, the squirrel's eyes recover, undergoing remodeling of the damaged area of the eye.
Because this area is quite similar to the human retina, with damage to the same kind of cells, called cones, this squirrel may harbor some repair secrets that could benefit humans. To unlock these secrets, Sangeetha Kandoi, PhD, plans to explore the molecular steps that the eyes of this squirrel undergo for these repairs.
The molecular data will allow comparisons with species that do not show this recovery, highlighting differences that in turn could spotlight treatment targets.
Using squirrels as a disease model is a clearly novel aspect of the project. The ultimate goal of this work is to develop therapies that could, as with these squirrels at each annual wakening, restore damaged vision.