Vision and Ocular Diseases | Vision Research at PCOM
Skip to main content
Helping Patients See Clearly

Vision research at PCOM

Vision and Ocular Diseases 
Vision Research at PCOM

Vision is a complex phenomenon involving transmittance of detailed information about the world around us to the retina of the eye and integration centers in the brain. A translucent lens is required for light to reach the retina with fidelity.

What is Vision Research?

Vision research focuses on understanding the sophisticated process of visual perception and exploring ways to prevent and treat vision-related disorders. Researchers explore various aspects of vision, including the structure and function of the eye, neural processing of visual information, and the psychological and cognitive aspects of vision. Many research efforts investigate eye diseases and explore approaches for early detection, treatment and vision restoration. Ultimately, vision research aims to preserve and enhance the remarkable gift of sight, improving the quality of life for people around the world.

Vision Research at PCOM

PCOM faculty and staff focus most of their vision research efforts on diseases that affect vision and cell processes related to the eye. Millions of people are visually impaired due to cataracts and retinal degeneration. PCOM students and faculty are looking into novel methods to preventing vision loss by deciphering mechanisms leading to dysfunction and developing approaches to maintaining the clarity of the lens and function of the retina.

Myo/Nog cells have attracted attention in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering due to their potential for repairing damaged skeletal muscle and promoting bone formation. Studies have shown that these cells can be isolated from muscle muscle tissue and expanded in culture, after which they can be induced back into the human body to restore healing properties. This versatility makes them promising candidates for therapeutic applications, such as treating degenerative vision diseases as well as muscle injuries and bone defects.

What are Myo/Nog Cells?

Myo/Nog cells, also known as MyoD-negative/Noggin-positive cells, are a specific type of stem cells that have been identified in skeletal muscle tissue. They are critical for normal development of the human brain, eyes, heart and muscles. Furthermore, in adults, Myo/Nog cells assist in wound healing and protect neurons. 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 surgery.

These cells are characterized by their ability to differentiate into various cell types, including muscle cells (myocytes) and bone cells (osteoblasts). The name "Myo/Nog" comes from the combination of two factors expressed by these cells: MyoD, a muscle-specific transcription factor, and Noggin, a secreted protein that plays a role in skeletal development.

Our Faculty Researchers

Our Staff Researchers

First-year medical student Mara Crispin (DO '25) is first author of a research article that concludes Myo/Nog cells differentiate into myofibroblasts that contract and produce retinal folds and detachment. If not repaired immediately, the damaged vision cells lead to blindness.

Learn More

First Year Med Student Jumps Into Vision Research portrait

Christopher Setura (DO '24) began vision research with Drs. George-Weinstein and Bravo-Nuevo while pursuing his biological sciences degree at Drexel University. Now a med student at PCOM, he studies the benefits of introducing exogenous Myo/Nog cells to the eyes of mice that have retinopathy of prematurity, which is the most common cause of blindness in human children.

Read More

Student Chris Sutera Describes His Research into Myo/Nog Cells and Blindness in Children portrait

In her time as a student at PCOM, Lindsay Gugerty, DO, explored the emerging roles of Myo/Nog cells in wound healing. Under the guidance of PCOM research staff, she explored the cells' ability to ingest or phagocytose foreign material and dead cells in the skin and eyes. This could lead to methods for preventing chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease.

Learn More

Student Research Spotlight: Lindsay Gugerty portrait

After discovering Myo/Nog cells more than 30 years ago, Mindy George-Weinstein, PhD, and Jacquelyn Gerhart, MS, continue to research these important vision cells. In a published paper, their research team found eliminating Myo/Nog cells in lenses undergoing cataract surgery significantly reduced the severity of a vision-impairing disease in animal models.

Read More

Study Suggests Potential Treatment for Cataract Complication portrait

Research at PCOM

PCOM aims to develop innovative approaches to promoting health through basic, translational, clinical, behavioral, education and community research projects.