Teri Belecky-Adams, Ph.D.Associate Professor and Director, Center for Developmental and Regenerative Biology, Biology Department, Neuroscience Program
Development of a functional eye involves two basic processes. First, a homogeneous undifferentiated population of cells must be induced to acquire specific cell fates. Second, cells must also have a sense of where they lie within the retina (a process known as patterning) in order to form proper topographical connections with the rest of the brain.
A loss of either one of these processes can lead to a loss of vision. My lab is focused on understanding the roles of a large family of proteins, known as the TGF-Beta family of growth factors, in the differentiation and patterning of the vertebrate eye. We are using tools such as microinjection of retroviruses carrying transgenes into the developing eye, as well as addition of factors in vitro to retinal cultures to perturb growth factor signaling to assay effects on differentiation as well as axonal and dendritic outgrowth.
By understanding the mechanisms whereby cells differentiate and form connections, we will one day be able to understand and apply this knowledge to eradicate congenital defects and treat injured or degenerating neurons.