CoChairs: Dan-Ning Hu (USA) and Sheila MacNeil (UK)
Members: Daniel M Albert (USA), Hans E Grossniklaus (USA), Staffin Lake (Sweden), Bengt Larsson (Sweden), Seth Orlow (USA), Joan E Roberts (USA), Maria A Saornil (Spain), Huiquan Zhao (USA)
Purpose: The Ocular/Extracutaneous Pigmentation Interest Group is dedicated to fostering progress in research on ocular and other extracutaneous pigment cells. The group aims to establish closer interaction and exchange of information between basic scientists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, otologists, and neurologists who work in the field of pigment cell research.
Ocular/Extracutaneous pigment cells include:
1. Ocular pigment cells including melanocytes and pigment epithelial cells.
2. Other extracutaneous pigment cells, such as pigment cells in the organ of Corti, leptomeninges and mucosal tissues. Besides melanin contained in these pigment cells, neuromelanin found in the brain may play a role in the physiology and pathology of the nervous system.
Functions of ocular/extracutaneous pigment include protection against light and UV radiation, action as antioxidants, scavengers of free radicals, reservoirs of certain drugs and toxic substances, and possibly participants in the development of the nervous system. Certain pigment cells have the phagocytic functions and serve as water-ion barriers. They produce and respond to various growth factors, hormones, inflammatory mediators and neurotransmitters. They may play a role in homeostasis of the micro-environment, and participate in immune reactions and inflammatory processes.
Ocular/Extracutaneous pigment cells are involved in a number of pathologic processes, such as uveal melanoma, some types of uveitis, albinism, Waardenburg's syndrome, etc. These diseases may lead to severe disability or loss of life. In contrast to the relatively well-studied epidermal melanocytes, studies of ocular/extracutaneous pigment cells are in their infancy; recently, this has become a fruitful area of investigation. It is now clear that ocular/extracutaneous pigment cells differ from epidermal melanocytes in many respects. Therefore, independent investigations of these cells are necessary.
Reliable methods for isolation and culture of normal uveal melanocytes and uveal melanoma cells have been established in the past decade. These cells produce melanin in vitro, and serve as a good model for studying melanogenesis. Several research centers in Europe and the United States are now working actively in this field. Communications among these groups is of paramount importance, as is the ability to communicate with researchers studying epidermal melanocytes and cutaneous melanoma who communicate regularly under the aegis of the International Federation of Pigment Cell Societies.
The Specific Aims of the Ocular/Extracutaneous Pigmentation Interest Group include the following:
To study the cellular differentiation, structure and function of ocular/extracutaneous pigment cells, particularly uveal melanocytes.
To study the biochemistry of ocular/extracutaneous pigments and the melanogenic pathways of ocular/extracutaneous pigment cells.
To study factors regulated growth, melanogenesis and other physiologic aspects of ocular/extracutaneous pigment cells.
To study the pathology, pathogenesis and clinical aspects of tumors involving Ocular/Extracutaneous pigment cells, particularly uveal melanocytes. Uveal melanoma is the second most common melanoma observed in humans.