One of the focuses in our lab is the study of retinal cell death (neuronal degeneration) and subsequent regeneration of retinal neurons. We currently use both a light-damage model and a ouabain (toxin-mediated) model. There is a differential damage response in these two models; light damage causes photoreceptor cell death, and ouabain causes cell death of the inner retinal neurons. These models allow us to focus on different types of retinal cell death to study the pathway(s) involved in regeneration of retinal neurons. My work focuses on examining factors that may be involved in regulating apoptosis and cell proliferation after damage to the retinal neurons.
One response we are interested in studying is the immune response triggered by retinal cell death. After ouabain injection, it appears that microglia within the retina are activated as part of an immune response. To further characterize this response, we are interested in examining the effects of neuronal protective agents to determine the resulting effect on the retinal regeneration and immune response.
Another response we are interested in studying is the altered expression of some transcription factors after retinal cell death. In the light treatment, Stat3 is upregulated in ganglion cells and proliferative Müller glia. To elucidate the role of Stat3 in the regeneration response, we plan to alter Stat3 expression via CNTF injection and morpholino-mediated knockdown.