PCOM researchers have found reducing the amount of Myo/Nog cells in the lens could
reduce the severity of posterior capsule opacification, or secondary cataract.
Myo/Nog cells, discovered more than 30 years ago by Mindy George-Weinstein, PhD, professor and chief research and science officer, and Jacquelyn Gerhart, MS, laboratory coordinator and bio-Imagining facility director, are like the Jekyll
and Hyde of cells: in the embryo, they are critical for normal development of the
brain, eyes, heart and muscles; in adults, they participate in wound healing and protect
neurons. But in other tissues—like the lens of the eye— they contribute to a vision-impairing
disease called posterior capsule opacification (PCO), which may develop after cataract
Often called a secondary cataract, PCO is caused when Myo/Nog cells migrate to normally
cell-free areas of the lens and form muscle-like cells called myofibroblasts. These
contract and produce wrinkles in the capsule surrounding the lens of the eye, leading
to a decline in visual acuity.
In a recent paper featured on the cover of Investigative Ophthalmology and Vision Research, Dr. George-Weinstein, Ms. Gerhart and their research team found that in the animal
model, eliminating Myo/Nog cells in lenses undergoing cataract surgery significantly
reduced the severity of PCO to clinically insignificant levels.
Myo/Nog cells were killed in the lens with a novel drug developed in collaboration
with scientists at Genisphere, LLC. This drug specifically targeted the Myo/Nog cells
with no observable side effects in surrounding tissues. A month after cataract surgery
(roughly the equivalent of two years in humans), few Myo/Nog cells remained in the
lens, with minimal, if any, wrinkles in the capsule.
Previous studies conducted by this group demonstrated that Myo/Nog cells are present
in the human lens. “Our next steps are to explore additional methods of drug delivery
to prolong its activity and continue to monitor its safety in animal models to pave
the way for eventual clinical trials in humans,” said Dr. George-Weinstein. “We envision
that this drug could be injected into all patients undergoing cataract surgery in
order to prevent PCO and preserve vision.”
Additional members of the PCOM community that contributed to this study include Arturo Bravo-Nuevo, PhD, associate professor of biomedical sciences; Colleen Withers (DO ’21); and lab support
staff members Joseph Infanti and Fathma Abdalla. Their research team and colleagues
at other universities are studying the roles of Myo/Nog cells in the retina, brain,
skin, liver and tumors.
About Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
Founded in 1899, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) has trained thousands
of highly competent, caring physicians, health practitioners and behavioral scientists
who practice a “whole person” approach to care—treating people, not just symptoms.
PCOM operates three campuses (PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia) and offers doctoral degrees in clinical psychology, educational psychology, osteopathic
medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy and school psychology, and graduate degrees in
applied behavior analysis, applied positive psychology, biomedical sciences, forensic
medicine, medical laboratory science, mental health counseling, non profit leadership
and population health management, organizational development and leadership, physician
assistant studies, school psychology, and public health management and administration.
PCOM students learn the importance of health promotion, research, education and service
to the community. Through its community-based Healthcare Centers, PCOM provides care
to medically underserved populations. For more information, visit pcom.edu or call 215-871-6100.
For more information, contact: Daniel McCunney Associate Director, News and Media Relations Email: email@example.com Office: 215-871-6304 | Cell: