Gene expression analysis during retinal ganglion cell development

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Wester, Andrea
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Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

The Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology seeks to teach subcellular and cellular processes, genome dynamics, cell structure and function, and molecular mechanisms of development, in so doing offering a Major in Biology and a Major in Genetics.

The Department of Genetics, Development, and Cell Biology was founded in 2005.

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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.

Genetics, Development and Cell Biology

Retinal ganglion cells are the final output neurons that gather electrical signals from light-sensing cells and relay this information to discrete locations in the brain. The loss of ganglion cells due to cell death is an irreversible process in glaucoma. Therefore, to fully restore vision in glaucoma patients, cellular replacement therapy is being explored as future treatment. However, for cellular replacement therapy to be a viable option, we must gain a better understanding of the networks of genes that combine together to generate retinal ganglion cells. The goal of our lab is to gain insight into the gene networks responsible for the generation of retinal ganglion cells. Using single-cell transcriptomics and microarrays, we have characterized the transcriptional programs that are activated in individual developing ganglion cells during normal development in the mouse, zebrafish and chicken. These experiments enable us to focus our future functional experiments on those networks that are the most conserved and, therefore, the most likely to be critical in ganglion cell development.