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Role of Extracellular Matrix in Retinal Development and Disease

Professor William J. Brunken, PhD, FARVO

In 2014, Dr. Brunken was recruited by Upstate Medical University, as professor of ophthalmology (primary) and professor of neuroscience and physiology (secondary). In addition, he was appointed as Vice Chair for Research, Ophthalmology and Director of the Center for Vision Research.

Before joining Upstate Medical University, Professor Brunken served on the faculties at Boston College, Harvard Medical School, Tufts University School of Medicine and SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Brunken maintains a leadership role in the academic vision community, serving on the program committee for the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) as well as on the Research Directors' Council of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology.  In recognition of his work and support of vision research, Professor Brunken was inducted as a Silver Fellow of ARVO and elected into the Dowling Society of the ARVO Foundation.

Professor William Brunken’s early work focused on the mechanisms of communication in the neural retina; for this work he started with an evolutionary approach and demonstrated that the mechanisms of communication in shark and ray retina were similar to that in mammalian retina.  Perhaps the most significant accomplishment was his demonstration that serotonin reuptake transporters could be pharmacologically separated into different neuronal classes – this work presaged the development of SSRI pharmacology in the treatment of various psychological disorders. More recently, the Brunken laboratory has focused on the role that molecules surrounding cells play in retinal and brain development. These molecules called laminins and netrins regulate many aspects of retinal and brain development and are linked to human disease and developmental disorders. His work has been published in major journals including IOVS, Neuron, Journal of Neuroscience, Journal of Cell Biology, and Nature Genetics.  The ultimate goal of the Brunken laboratory is to translate the cellular and molecular understanding of the role of retinal laminins and netrins into clinical gains including the engineering of stem cells and integration of electronic neural prostheses.

Contact: William J. Brunken, PhD Professor and Vice Chair, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Professor, Neuroscience & Physiology
Location: 3601 Institute For Human Performance
Phone: (315) 464-9809
Email: [email protected]
Dr. Brunken’s work has been funded by the NEI since 1986, nearly continuously; his current funding period extends to 2020. He has also received awards from the Foundation Fighting Blindness, National Science Foundation, the New York State Empire Stem Cell board and the Empire Clinical Research Investigator Program. In addition to his research grants, Dr. Brunken was a recipient of a Grass Foundation Fellowship in 1981; an individual NRSA fellowship in 1984-86; and an E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation award for Innovative ophthalmologic research in 1997. Dr. Brunken has served as mentor for investigative staff at all levels from starting undergraduate students through mid-career faculty. Many of his former students are now tenured faculty in the United States and around the world (Germany, France and Thailand).