Retinal Cell Fate Choice to Cone Photoreceptors
The cone photoreceptor cells in our eye are responsible for daylight vision. Once these cells are lost due to injury or disease, our eye cannot generate new cones in their place, which results in blindness. In an effort to make a plentiful source of these cells for cell replacement therapy, my lab is interested in understanding how cone photoreceptor cell form during eye development. We study eye development in two model organisms: the cone photoreceptor-rich retina of the frog, Xenopus laevis, and the well-characterized laboratory mouse.
Our current work attempts to recreate the early developmental stages of embryonic eye formation using isolated mouse embryonic stem cells and pluripotent cells in the frog embryo. Extrinsic and intrinsic factors in the embryo play critical roles in transforming the pluripotent embryonic stem cell into the differentiated retinal cell. My lab is interested in the molecular pathways necessary for their formation, testing the necessity of these pathways using cultured and transplanted cells.