Progressive vision loss, and eventually blindness, are the hallmarks of juvenile neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (JNCL) or CLN3-Batten disease. New research shows how the mutation associated with the disease could potentially lead to degeneration of light sensing photoreceptor cells in the retina, and subsequent vision loss.
To study Batten disease in patient’s own cells, the research team at the University of Rochester Batten Center reengineered skin cells from patients and unaffected family members to create human-induced pluripotent stem cells. These cells, in turn, were used to create retinal cells which possessed the CLN3 mutation. Using this new human cell model of the disease, the new study shows for the first time that proper function of CLN3 is necessary for retinal pigment epithelium cell structure, the cell layer in the retina that nourishes light sensing photoreceptor cells in the retina and is critical for their survival and function and thereby vision.