Public defence in Biomedical Engineering, M.Sc. Mooud Amirkavei

Title of the doctoral thesis: Unravelling the effects of hormetic heat shock as a treatment for age-related macular degeneration

Opponent: Professor Anu Kauppinen, University of Eastern Finland, Finland
Custos: Professor Ari Koskelainen, Aalto University School of Science, Department of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering

The doctoral thesis will be publicly displayed 10 days before the defence in the publication archive of Aalto University.

Electronic doctoral thesis

Public defence announcement: 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in individuals aged 50 years and above. The disease is characterized by a gradual loss of central vision due to photoreceptor cell degeneration in the center of the retina at the back of the eye, known as the macula. Photoreceptors are in close contact with a layer of cells called the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). RPE cells support the function of the photoreceptors and play an important role in maintaining retinal functionality and stability. In AMD, this natural function of the RPE is disturbed, resulting in the accumulation of retinal waste products, called drusens, underneath the RPE. The treatment for AMD depends on the type and stage of the disease. Currently, there is no cure for early AMD, but there are effective treatments for advanced AMD. 

This thesis investigated the possibilities of applying hormetic heat to restore the reduced activity of aged-cells clearance mechanisms such as protective chaperones and autophagy, in in vitro and in vivo RPE cells. 

The thesis demonstrated that transpupillary laser heating can effectively induce a heat shock response in the RPE of animal models without causing any tissue damage. This technique could provide a potential method for studying heat shock-based therapy approaches in rodent models of retinal disease. Additionally, the thesis shows that laser treatment controlled by the retinal temperature determination method can be used to increase the temperature of pig RPE in vivo in a controlled manner. In these treatments, a narrow therapeutic window for safe induction of heat shock necessitates the precise temperature control of the RPE during heating. The increased expression of heat shock chaperones and activation of selective autophagy in RPE cells can improve cellular waste clearance. Activating these natural defensive cascades can help aged cells to retain their cellular functionality and may provide protective treatment for retinal diseases, such as AMD. 

Contact details of the doctoral student: [email protected]

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