3MT 2023 Finalist  Constantin Mouzaaber

Constantin Mouzaaber

Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, College of Health Sciences

Modeling Human Eyes From Skin Cells

Introduce yourself…

I’m a student in Dr. Matt Benson’s lab at the department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. My biological sciences background equipped me to uncover disease mechanisms myself! With the help of my exceptional mentors of course, research is a team sport… Having lived in three countries, I now proudly call Edmonton home. On campus, you may currently recognize me at the GSA council meetings, CCR soccer leagues, or Campus Foodbank. Beyond campus, you may see me at your next professional soccer game as a referee. I play the snare-drums at my church’s marching-band and perform in our tri-lingual Christmas recital.

What are you researching and what do you hope comes out of your research?

A patient exhibiting a genetic from of retinal degeneration presented to my supervisor, Dr. Benson. The patient’s genetic mutation impairs peroxisome organelles, an essential component present in most cells, including our retinal pigment epithelium cells (eye cells).

I’m currently reprograming patient derived induced pluripotent stem cells to retinal pigment epithelium cells to investigate how peroxisomes impaired by the patient’s specific genetic mutation induce disease in an ocular cell type of interest – retinal pigment epithelium.

I hope that my research informs the role of peroxisomes in retinal pigment epithelium cells which will better guide potential therapies when treating peroxisome-associated genetic-retinopathy.

How did presenting a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) help explain your research to the public?

Like any passionate individual, I could go on about my research for hours. However, finding someone not voluntold and not familiar with my field to discuss my research with is tricky. 3MT provided me with an opportunity to repackage my research story. My 3MT invites you, members of the public without necessary prior expertise in my research area, to admire the science fiction that I indulge in using simple terminology and a concise format.

What inspires you to do research?

Cellular biology intrigues me, particularly at the molecular level. Vision fascinates me, in addition to genetics and all other fundamental science.

I work at Southgate’s LensCrafters, the busiest branch across western Canada. The way customers’ faces shine the moment they wear their corrective optical devices inspires me to pursue a career in ophthalmology and visual sciences.

I find that people, myself included, sometimes take vision for granted. Try any of the activities that you like with your eyes almost closed, imagine that some permanently experience that. However, we have the tools to address visual impairment and develop treatments.

What are three key words important to your 3MT?

Patient derived stem cells, reprogramming, retinal cells

How does your research impact local, provincial, or global communities at large?

How does your research impact local, provincial, or global communities at large?*

My research contributes to foundational science by elaborating on the function of a ubiquitous subcellular organelle (peroxisomes) in key eye cells (retinal pigment epithelium) that maintain our photoreceptors which detect light.

Yet my research may guide translational intervention approaches. Once I discover the visual disease mechanism, therapeutic interventions will be attempted on my patient-derived eye cells in a dish! My project will potentially provide pre-clinical evidence to support treatment.

If you had to dedicate your research to anyone from the past, present, or future, who would it be and why?

Learning how everything functions is both exciting and important. But this is ultimately to ameliorate patient outcomes. I dedicate my research to all the individuals that may benefit from my research findings. Perhaps that could be other translational research groups, therapeutic development teams, or patients themselves.

I would also like to thank everyone who is a part of my journey, this is only the beginning.

3MT Image Description: A cycle that begins with a patient skin biopsy sample and ends with corrected patient-derived eye cells.

Watch Constantin's Three Minute Thesis