Characterizing mRNA Expression in the Retinal Ganglion Cells of the Developing Chick Retina

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Lee, Miranda
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Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression
Iowa State University Conferences and Symposia

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.

Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

The retina is responsible for sensing light and transmitting the signal to the brain in the form of chemical and electrical signals. In our lab, we focus on the development of one set of neurons in the retina, the retinal ganglion cells. These cells receive visual information and send that information as a signal to the brain via their axons, which make up the optic nerve. Studying these cells is important for medical advancement treating diseases such as glaucoma, in which the death of these cells eventually leads to blindness. The goal of my research is to identify the genes most critical to development of healthy retinal ganglion cells by characterizing the mRNA expressed in these cells in the developing chick retina at different time points. Identifying these critical genes and the time points at which they are expressed could contribute to successful ganglion cell generation in vitro. The cells could then be used to replace unhealthy cells that are causing disease and blindness.