The Molecular Profiles that Define Specific Retinal Ganglion Cells
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The Honors project is potentially the most valuable component of an Honors education. Typically Honors students choose to do their projects in their area of study, but some will pick a topic of interest unrelated to their major.
The Honors Program requires that the project be presented at a poster presentation event. Poster presentations are held each semester. Most students present during their senior year, but may do so earlier if their honors project has been completed.
This site presents project descriptions and selected posters for Honors projects completed since the Fall 2015 semester.
Recent studies estimate that there are at least 30 different types of retinal ganglion cell in the mouse eye. These cells are responsible for the connection between the eye and the brain and, therefore, have important functions in image formation. In addition, these are the cells that die in glaucoma, the second leading cause of blindness. Even though the 30 types have been characterized by their physiology, the genetics of each type is unknown. This includes those genes that distinguish one type from another. The goal of our project is to begin to characterize the differences between these cells on a genetic level. In the lab, there is a mouse that has been engineered to express a red fluorescent protein in 8 different types of ganglion cells. Previously, students isolated red cells from the mouse retinas and identified sets of mRNAs that were expressed in each cell. Through these mRNAs, predictions have been made as to which genes define which ganglion cells. However, since the number of cells analyzed by this method was small, larger scale validations need to be performed. Our objective was to take genes that were identified in this initial screen and analyze their expression in retinal ganglion cells in much more detail.