The Retinal Cell and Molecular Laboratory has three major areas of interest, each of which deals with some aspect of growth factor signaling and function in the retina and retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE): 1. Investigations aimed at gaining a better understanding of the pathogenesis of retinal and choroidal neovascularization and developing new ways to treat them.
2. Investigations aimed at understanding the molecular signals involved in retinal and RPE wound repair and scarring. The prototypical disease in this category is proliferative vitreoretinopathy and our laboratory is seeking to identify new treatments for it. 3. Investigations aimed at understanding why retinal degenerations occur and how they might be treated, with particular emphasis on neurotrophic factors.
The Seth Blackshaw Lab uses functional genomics and proteomics to rapidly identify the molecular mechanisms that regulate cell specification and survival in both the retina and hypothalamus. We have profiled gene expression in both these tissues, from the start to the end of neurogenesis, characterizing the cellular expression patterns of more than 1,800 differentially expressed transcripts in both tissues. Working together with the lab of Heng Zhu in the Department of Pharmacology, we have also generated a protein microarray comprised of nearly 20,000 unique full-length human proteins, which we use to identify biochemical targets of developmentally important genes of interest.
The goal of the Singh Lab is to cure retinal degeneration due to genetic disease in patients. There are many retinal diseases such as Stargardts, Macular Degeneration, and Retinitis Pigmentosa, that are currently incurable. These diseases damage and eventually eliminate photoreceptors in the retina. The lab's aim is to take healthy photoreceptors derived from stem cells and transplant them into the patient’s retina to replace the lost photoreceptors. The transplanted photoreceptors are left to mature, make connections with the recipient’s remaining retina, and restore vision. Further, the lab is most interested in the cone-photoreceptor rich region of the macula, which is the central zone of the human retina, enabling high-acuity vision for tasks such as facial recognition and reading.
Wilmer Bioinformatics has been mainly focused on ocular informatics. Specifically, the group develops and applies bioinformatics approaches to study gene regulation and signaling networks, with particular but not exclusive attention to the mammalian retina. Understanding the molecular basis of tissue specific gene regulation and signaling will contribute to better prevention, diagnosis and treatment of retinal disease.