Alli PictureSIVB student member Allison Songstad, a Ph.D. student at the University of Iowa, published her research titled “Generating iPSC-Derived Choroidal Endothelial Cells to Study Age-Related Macular Degeneration” in the December, 2015, issue of Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (the society journal of ARVO).  The goal of this study was to develop a method to use induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) to generate choroidal endothelial cells, which form the vasculature behind the retina and are one of the main cell types affected in AMD pathogenesis. The results presented in this paper were previously discussed at the 2015 SIVB meeting in Tucson.  Allison reported that iPSCs generated from mice expressing green fluorescent protein under control of the endothelial Tie2 promoter display classic pluripotency markers and stem cell morphology. The iPSC–derived choroidal endothelial cells express the choriocapillaris-specific markers carbonic anhydrase IV, FOXA2, and TTR, along with other common endothelial cell markers, like PLVAP, CD31, CD34, ICAM-1, Tie2, VE-cadherin, and vWF. This study is the first to report the differentiation of choroidal endothelial cells from iPSCs, which will be highly valuable for modeling choriocapillaris-specific insults in AMD and for future choroidal endothelial cell replacement therapeutic approaches.

Please use the following link to read the abstract for this paper: .

Yarelia Zavala-Ortiz earned a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology (2012) at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico, Barranquitas Campus (IAUPR BC).   Currently she is completing a Master of Science in Biotechnology at IAUPR BC.

Yarelia Zavala-Ortiz has been very active in student life, for example as member of Honor Program and the board of the Biology/Biotechnology Student Association. She has received several scholarships, such as the Scholarship from the Puerto Rico’s Council of Education, the SMART National Grant, and a scholarship for graduate studies from the Inter American University Vice-presidency for Academic Affairs.

She has received student research assistantships and this opportunity has allowed her to work with Dr. Juan A. Negrón-Berríos, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Biotechnology at IAUPR BC.   She has presented her work in several  scientific forums, including: Molecular characterization of Enterococcus spp. in the initial segment of the Rio Grande de Manatí (2012) at the 13th International Symposium of the Research Centers in Minority Institutions;  Molecular diagnosis of the parasite Haemonchus contortus in small ruminants of Puerto Rico (2013) at the Biosciences Research Symposium from IAUPR BC; and Ex- situ Conservation of Scutellaria havanensis: A potential medicinal plant at the 2014 World Forum on Biology.


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