Dr. Rachael Pearson - current research projects
1) Defining new strategies to restore cone-mediated vision. We have demonstrated that it is possible to restore vision mediated by rods but humans rely heavily upon cones for vision in daylight and colour-vision. For this reason, we aim to define new strategies for the restoration of cone-mediated vision by transplantation.
2) Determine the mechanisms of migration utilized by both rod and cone precursors in normal development and following transplantation. By understanding how the small proportion of cells transplanted manage to migrate into the recipient retina, we should be able to find ways to manipulate this migration and drive more cells into the recipient retina.
3) Determine strategies for breaking down barriers within the recipient retina. We have recently examined transplantation efficiency in a variety of models of retinal degeneration and found that disease type has a major impact on outcome (Barber et al., in review). On going work in my group aims to identify factors within the degenerating retina that impede (or enhance) transplanted cell integration and find ways to manipulate them to improve transplantation outcome (West et al., 2012; Pearson et al., 2010; West et al., 2008)
4) Determine whether purinergic signalling as an evolutionarily restricted signalling mechanism in the control of retinal stem cell proliferation. Unlike lower vertebrates, the mammalian retina lacks the ability to generate. Understanding the mechanisms behind these differences is crucial to knowing whether it might be possible to stimulate the mammalian retina to repair itself. We believe that the presence or absence of purinergic signaling may be important in determining this capability.
Techniques used in the lab: multi-photon, confocal and fluorescence microscopy, stem cell culture, calcium imaging, proliferation assays, viral vector production, molecular biology, transplantation, RNAi, multielectrode array recordings, electroretinogram recordings, intrinsic imaging of visual cortex, behavioural tests of vision.
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