Making Stem-Cell Band-Aids for the Retina

At the beginning of July, Caltech senior Wilson Ho found himself hiking, stargazing, and camping in Yosemite National Park with a Nobel laureate. He even joined a group of scientists for a spontaneous jump into a freezing cold stream. 

Ho was spending the summer working on a SURF project in the lab of Robert Grubbs, one of the winners of the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Therefore, he had earned himself a spot on the Grubbs team's annual camping trip.

Ho, a chemistry major, originally contacted Grubbs in January, searching for a summer research project that dealt with catalysis or organometallic chemistry, the study of chemical compounds that contain carbon atoms bound to metals. Grubbs told him that postdoctoral scholar Paresma Patel was looking for an intern to help with a chemical-synthesis project related to macular degeneration—a disease that is associated with aging and causes cells in a part of the retina to die. Macular degeneration is estimated to affect 1.8 million Americans, with another 7.3 million at substantial risk of developing the disease. Patel's project, funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, sounded so interesting that Ho signed up. [MORE]