Dr. Ehinger has for several decades studied the structure and function of the retina, and has the last decade worked on methods for transplanting retinas. He is applying for an EU contract with Drs. Ali and Lund on work that will participate in forming the basis for the proposed Training Network described here. He is Principal Investigator of the Scandinavian Tapetoretinal Degeneration Research Center, which consists of three Scandinavian research groups forming very close contacts between clinical and theoretical scientists, facilitating the transfer of theoretical knowledge to practical clinical work. The organization is funded by the Foundation Fighting Blindness in Baltimore, USA. In the last five years, the work in the Center has resulted in more than 150 papers published in international scientific journals and a large number of congress abstracts. The most important observations have been that they have demonstrated that when transplanted, fetal retinal cells continue to develop and form most of the cell components necessary for their function. They have also demonstrated that the transplants are able to perceive some light and do at least some simple signal processing. With a recently developed transplantation procedure, they have been able to obtain well laminated retinas which after several months give good fusion between transplant and host than the original transplantation. Most recently, they have developed a number of different strategies for assessing factors that influence the development of transplants, including a tissue explant system in which fetal retinas develop into mature tissue.

Of the two assistant contractors in the proposed EU research group, Dr Raymond Lund (Duke Elder professor of Ophthalmology at Institute of Ophthalmology) is widely renowned for his studies on the development of CNS and retina neurons, using among other things different transplantation systems as experimental tools. Dr Ali is known for his extensive experience with molecular biology and genetics, and is working in close contact with Dr. Shom S. Bhattacharya and other scientists at the Moorfields Eye Hospital in London specializing in genetic and other aspects of tapetoretinal degenerations. Strong electrophysiology support is available from Dr. Mathias Seeliger of Tübingen. Students in the program will thus be exposed to contacts with internationally renowned experts on cell transplantation, neuron system development, gene vector production and electrophysiological testing. This ensures them a good background for understanding the principles and possibilities of developing therapeutic strategies for tapetoretinal degenerations. The laboratories have the equipment and facilities needed for the project.

Two most significant recent publications:

1. F. Ghosh, A. Bruun, and B. Ehinger. Graft-host connections in long-term full-thickness embryonic rabbit retinal transplants. Invest.Ophthalmol.Vis.Sci. 40 (1):126-132, 1999.

2. C. L. Zucker and B. Ehinger. Gamma-aminobutyric acidA receptors on a bistratified amacrine cell type in the rabbit retina. J.Comp.Neurol. 393 (3):309-319, 1998.