My Journey in Science
Myself: I am Rupendra Shrestha (or just say RD), and I was born into the loving embrace of Rudra Prasad Shrestha and Basanta Kumari Shrestha in the beautiful landscape of the Himalayas (popular for Sagarmatha– Mt.Everest), Nepal. Growing up in the land of Buddha and having been blessed by a Hindu god/goddess, I was profoundly influenced by the rich cultural heritage, social and peace-owning people, and stunning natural surroundings. Little did I know that this environment would shape my future as a research fellow at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, USA.
Early Years and Academic Achievements: My educational journey began with a passion for unraveling the mysteries of life and a strong desire to contribute to the medical field. As I embarked on my academic journey, I discovered my true passion for science. Pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Laboratory Medicine provided me with hands-on experience and a solid foundation in clinical laboratory medicine. Building on my academic achievements, I sought practical application of my knowledge and served as an on-job trainee at the Department of Pathology, Bir Hospital, and completed an MLT internship at the National Public Health Laboratory (NPHL) in Nepal. This experience offered invaluable insights into the challenges and rewards of clinical laboratory practice.
Eager for personal growth, I pursued a Master of Science in Human Genetics, deepening my understanding of the importance of genetic diagnosis in a clinical health setting. Then, seeking further professional development, I took on the role of a Clinical Molecular Geneticist at Manipal Hospital in India, where I contributed to diagnosing genetic disorders. These experiences solidified my commitment to improving healthcare through research and innovation.
Unveiling the Power of Science and Illuminating the Path to Vision Science: Driven by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and an unwavering passion for scientific discovery, I embraced a new chapter in my life by pursuing a research fellowship at IBAB in India. Here, I immersed myself in the captivating world of research and discovered my true potential in the field of science. Witnessing the boundless possibilities presented by scientific advancements in medicine, I decided to dedicate my career to exploring their applications in experimental and molecular medicine. These experiences paved the way for my next significant venture as a Ph.D. scholar at Tzu Chi University in Taiwan.
To further expand my knowledge and skills, I started working on stem cells and ophthalmology at Tzu Chi University in Taiwan. My research has primarily focused on the utilization of human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) for generating miniature eyes and retinal cells (RPE, RGC). Additionally, I have investigated the transplantation of hiPSC-derived retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells in degenerative rat models. This groundbreaking work has contributed significantly to the field of retinal regenerative medicine.
Throughout my career, I have concentrated on utilizing retinal organoids to model various human retinal diseases, such as RP, LCA, and glaucoma. While working at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, I developed novel hESCs sublines carrying 15kbp monoallelic and biallelic deletions in the CRB1 gene, which served as models for retinal degenerations and investigated human retinal organoids. This research has provided valuable insights into the mechanisms underlying CRB1-associated inherited retinal diseases. I have also been involved in groundbreaking work where we established a unique model for tissue patterning and coordinated specification in CONCEPT telencephalon-eye organoids, aiming to guide RGC axon growth in humans. Furthermore, using a Six3/Six6 double knockout mice model, we mapped the single-cell transcriptome of multipotent retinal progenitors, unveiling their cell identities and developmental trajectories. These findings are under consideration for publication in reputed journals and are available as a preprint in bioRxiv.
Advancing the Careers in Eye Research: My unwavering dedication to the field of eye research has received recognition. One notable accomplishment was my contribution to the development of a synchronized protocol for generating cone-rich retinal organoids derived from human embryonic stem cells. This achievement led to our team being honored with the NEI Phase II Prize for the 3-D Retina Organoid Challenge. Additionally, I was awarded the “Fight for Sight 2022” grant, which supported my groundbreaking work on understanding the role of CRB1 in human eye development and inherited retinal degeneration.
My commitment to advancing knowledge is further evident through multiple published works in the areas of stem cells and ophthalmic research. In addition, I have actively participated in international conferences and meetings, where I received travel awards to attend and present my findings and several presentation awards for my work. I have also been privileged to guide and nurture trainees and Ph.D. students in their research journeys. By sharing my expertise and fostering a passion for scientific exploration, I aim to inspire the next generation of researchers.
In conclusion, my journey as a research scientist in the field of eye research has been remarkable. It has been shaped by a deep love for science, a drive to improve healthcare, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. I am grateful for the opportunities that have come my way, and I am excited to continue making groundbreaking contributions to science.
“Living with dignity and dedicating oneself to others is the path to earning respect, as life encompasses values beyond mere financial wealth”
(Shrestha RUPENDRA , MS, Ph.D.)