Exploring distinct retinal ganglion cell types at single cell resolution
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The Symposium provides undergraduates from all academic disciplines with an opportunity to share their research with the university community and other guests through conference-style oral presentations. The Symposium represents part of a larger effort of Iowa State University to enhance, support, and celebrate undergraduate research activity.
Though coordinated by the University Honors Program, all undergraduate students are eligible and encouraged to participate in the Symposium. Undergraduates conducting research but not yet ready to present their work are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the presentation process and students not currently involved in research are encouraged to attend the Symposium to learn about the broad range of undergraduate research activities that are taking place at ISU.
The first Symposium was held in April 2007. The 39 students who presented research and their mentors collectively represented all of ISU's Colleges: Agriculture and Life Sciences, Business, Design, Engineering, Human Sciences, Liberal Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, and the Graduate College. The event has grown to regularly include more than 100 students presenting on topics that span the broad range of disciplines studied at ISU.
Glaucoma is a degenerative disease of the eye, characterized by the gradual death of the optic nerve and the retinal ganglion cells that comprise it. The literature tells us that these cells do not die uniformly. To understand why this is, it is imperative we have a robust understanding of the retinal ganglion cell; however, characterization has been difficult and no good genetic profile exists for all the various sub-types. Our research examines retinal ganglion cells at single cell resolution on microarrays. Using these data, we are able to visualize candidate genes expressed in retinal ganglion cell sub-types with in situ hybridization using a mouse model. Of the many retinal ganglion cell sub-types, one is important for contrast sensitivity, which may aid in circadian rhythms as well as other visual functions. Our techniques have identified a set of genes that we predict is indicative of this sub-type and experiments are being performed to validate this finding. The use of these techniques grants us a stronger understanding of the biology of retinal ganglion cells, which will enable the development of improved future treatments for glaucoma.