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Basic science: Bedrock of progress

Basic science


There is an excellent editorial in the 25 March 2016 edition of Science Magazine from Francis Collins et. al. re-stating the NIH position on support for basic science.  This is important for anyone applying to the NIH for grants as well as those reviewing NIH grants as the central question should be: “How much will the proposed work advance understanding and progress in the field?”.

Categories: Funding Opportunities, Interesting.

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Faculty Opportunity Moran Eye Center

Moran Eye Center-Color-CR_1


The University of Utah Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences invites applications for a full-time position at the level of Assistant/Associate Professor (commensurate w/experience) in the field of visual system function and or/disease. Successful candidates are expected to establish a strong research program funded by federal sources (NIH, NSF), to strengthen the current research carried out at the Moran Eye Institute as well as bring new areas of research into focus.


Categories: Jobs.

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Store-Operated Calcium Entry In Müller Glia Is Controlled By Synergistic Activation Of TRPC And Orai Channels

JNeurosci cover_Vol36_Issue11_600

There is a new publication out in the Journal of Neuroscience (cover story) from Moran Eye Center scientists, Store-Operated Calcium Entry In Müller Glia Is Controlled By Synergistic Activation Of TRPC And Orai Channels authored by Tünde Molnár, Oleg YarishkinPeter Barabas, Anthony Iuso, Bryan William JonesRobert Marc, Tam Phuong, and David Krizaj.


Categories: Moran Eye Center Research.

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Seminar: Photoreception In Fetal And Newborn Mice: Actions On Behavior And Vascular Patterning In The Eye

Seminar Flyer - Copenhagen.ppt

David Copenhagen, Professor of Ophthalmology and Physiology at University of California, San Francisco will be delivering a seminar on “Photoreception In Fetal And Newborn Mice: Actions On Behavior And Vascular Patterning In The Eye” on Wednesday, April 6th at 12:00 Noon in the Moran Eye Center auditorium.


Melanopsin-mediated photoreception in fetuses and young neonatal mice.
The newly discovered melanopsin-expressing photoreceptors in the eye are born around mid fetal gestation and well before rod and cone-mediated visual signaling emerges (~postnatal day 10) in mice. Our research focuses on understanding what visual functions are facilitated by photo activated melanopsin cells in fetal and neonatal animals. I will discuss also our studies directed toward elucidating signaling pathways activated by melanopsin cells in the eye.

Categories: Seminar.

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Seminar: Of Mice and Men, Between Bedside & Bench

Seminar Flyer - Tsang

Stephen H. Tsang, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Columbia University will be delivering a seminar on “Of Mice and Men: Between Bedside & Bench” on Wednesday, March 16th at 11:30am in the Moran Eye Center auditorium.  Stephen will be discussing the application of genome engineering in stem cells to study “three blind mice”.

Categories: Seminar.


Seminar: Anterior and Posterior Segments of the eye: Hijacking Corneal Development and Novel Therapeutics for Retinal Regeneration

Seminar Flyer - Carroll

Lara Carroll, who works in the Bala Ambati laboratory will deliver a seminar on Anterior and Posterior Segments of the eye: Hijacking Corneal Development and Novel Therapeutics for Retinal Regeneration, on Wednesday, March 9th in the Moran Eye Center auditorium.

Abstract: Non-keratinized epithelium is essential for corneal transparency and vision. The molecular defects causing millions of patients worldwide to suffer from corneal surface disease are largely unknown. During my post-doc in Mario Capecchi’s lab, I found that conditional misexpression of HoxC8 in surface ectoderm caused differentiation of embryonic mouse corneal and conjunctival epithelium into keratinized skin-like epithelium. Expression of the corneal genes Pax6 and K12 was lost, whereas basal epithelial cells upregulated P63, a keratinocyte stem cell marker. My work is consistent with recent data demonstrating a Wnt signaling/Pax6/P63 corneal requirement for maintenance of adult corneal epithelium, and reveals additional molecular events that are likely essential for proper epithelial differentiation of the ocular surface during corneal development.

In the Ambati laboratory, we test methods for preserving and regenerating the inner retina following a variety of retinal assaults. We found that preventative therapy involving COMP-Ang1/Tie2 signaling stabilizes vascular beds and reduces ischemic damage in mice with retinal stroke and diabetic retinopathy. I am now focused on developing complementary strategies to improve preservation of the inner retina and reverse damage after it occurs.

Categories: Seminar.

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Why Do Goat Eyes Look The Way They Do?

There is a new Explorer special based on an article in the latest issue of National Geographic with Michael Stevens (@tweetsauce), Unlocking The Eyes that is well worth checking out. In the video above, Michael interviews Marty Banks and William Sprague about why many prey animals like goats have the eye anatomy they do. i.e., why are their eyes have horizontal pupils and why their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads?


Categories: Evolution of Vision, Interesting, Interesting Links.

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Losing His Sight, This Photographer Chases the Light

This short video features the art of Steven Erra, a photographer who is losing his vision due to a retinal degenerative disease, yet is generating beautiful work by light painting.  Steven is a member of The Seeing With Photography Collective, a group of sight impaired artists who are making waves in the art world through their imagery and inspiring the work of both sighted and non-sighted photographers alike.

Categories: Art of Vision, Interesting.

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How Animals And Humans See The World Differently

There is a short video from National Geographic that is a companion to an article by Ed Yong (@edyong209) in National Geographic here.  The photography is wonderful as is typical of National Geographic and is well worth your time.

For a more detailed read on the evolution of vision, be sure to check out this Webvision chapter by Trevor Lamb, Evolution of Phototransduction, Vertebrate Photoreceptors and Retina.

Categories: Evolution of Vision, Interesting.

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Amazing .gifs By Blind Artist, George RedHawk


George RedHawk is a legally blind artist who’s medium is animated gifs and his work is truly stunning. There is a really interesting portfolio of his work on Graphic Art News as well as some background on how he manages to create these amazing works here.  In short, he uses photo morphing software to morph one image into another, then he makes animated gifs.  Check out his website for more work from his portfolio of on-going works titled “The World Through My Eyes” here.

Categories: Interesting.

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Seminar: Molecular Organization of the First Visual Synapse

Seminar Flyer-Martemyanov

Kirill Martemyanov, Associate Professor at the Scripps Institute will be delivering a seminar on Molecular Organization of the First Visual Synapse, on Wednesday, February 10th at 12pm in the Moran Eye Center auditorium.

Abstract: Signaling in the retina plays an essential role in our vision. Light is detected by rod and cone photoreceptors that convert it to the electrical response further propagated through the retina circuitry by means of synaptic communication between neurons. To be able to see at low light levels, highly sensitive rods must faithfully transmit the signal that they generate to downstream bipolar neurons. The efforts in my laboratory are focused on studying molecular players and signaling events at the first visual synapse between formed by rod photoreceptors. I will describe how multiple elements of the synaptic signaling machinery are organized and scaffolded together to ensure proper transmission of signal generated by rods enabling vision at low light.

Categories: Seminar.

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The Mystery of Neanderthal Large Eyes

Neanderthal skull

The extinct Neanderthals had orbital eye sockets that are much larger than ours.  Recently, there has been an discussion covered in a fascinating article linked the other day on the BBC discussing the large orbital eye sockets of the Neanderthals and whether these eye represented a reason for the Neanderthals’ demise or not.

Helga Kolb noticed an interesting discussion about this from two other pioneers of vision research, Bill Stell and Clyde Oyster his resulted in some interesting commentary between them on their Facebook accounts. Continued…

Categories: Evolution of Vision, Interesting.

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Seminar: Cholesterol and the Retina: Twists and Turns of Biology and Pathobiology

Fliesler Seminar Flyer

Steven J. Fliesler, UB Distinguished Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at University of Buffalo/State University of New York (SUNY) will be delivering a seminar on Cholesterol and the Retina: Twists and Turns of Biology and Pathobiology on Thursday, October 8th at 11:30am  in the the Moran Eye Center auditorium.

Abstract: Cholesterol is a ubiquitous component of almost all cellular membranes in higher eukaryotes, and is, by far, the dominant sterol in all mammalian cells and tissues. Excessive levels of blood-borne cholesterol and deposition in extracellular matrices has long been causally associated with cardiovascular disease and age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and age-related macular degeneration. However, a paucity of cholesterol also can be deleterious, even lethal. Hence, defective cholesterol biosynthesis can lead to disruption of cellular and systemic physiology, resulting in profound pathologies. Merely providing exogenous cholesterol does not effectively ameliorate these pathologies. The Fliesler lab has shown that inhibiting the last step in cholesterol synthesis in an animal model, mimicking a human recessive disease known as the Smith-Lemli-Opitz Syndrome (SLOS), causes a progressive and irreversible retinal degeneration. However, the molecular mechanism underlying this degeneration is complex, involving marked lipidomic, proteomic, and genomic changes. Lipid and protein oxidation, as well as oxysterol formation, have been implicated in this retinal degeneration. These findings suggest that blocking such oxidation (with antioxidants) may provide a useful adjunct to cholesterol supplementation (the current standard of care) as a therapeutic intervention for human patients afflicted with diseases involving defective cholesterol biosynthesis, such as SLOS. Preliminary clinical study results support this prediction.

Categories: Seminar.

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EMT And Myofibroblast Generation In An Injured Lens

Seminar Flyer - Saika

Shizuya Saika, Professor and Chairman of Wakayama Medical University will be delivering a seminar on EMT and myofibroblast generation in an injured lens: modulation of TGFb/Smad signal by extracellular matrix on Tuesday, October 6th at Noon  in the the Moran Eye Center auditorium.

Abstract: EMT and myofibroblast appears in the fibrotic tissues that are undergoing wound healing process. In the eye it is observed in the crystalline lens or other ocular tissues. Transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ)/Smad signal plays a central role in the process of EMT and myofibroblast generation in an injured mouse lens. However, EMT is further modulated by signals derived from binding of extracellular matrix (ECM) to cell surface receptors. In the current talk the mechanisms of modulation of EMT by matricellular proteins, i. e., osteopontin, tenscin-C and lumican through modulation of TGFβ signal. Lacking one of these component suppressed activation of TGFβ signal as revealed by mutant mouse lines. Although overall signals derived from these ECM components support Smad signal and positively modulate EMT, the detailed mechanisms of actions seem differ among each other.

Categories: Seminar.

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Missense variant in CST3 Exerts Recessive Effect On Susceptibility to AMD


There is an interesting paper out demonstrating that CST3 exerts a recessive effect on susceptibility to AMD.  Cystatin C is a potent inhibitor of cysteine proteinases expressed by many tissues and in the eye, it is highly expressed by the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). The team led by Luminita Paraoan recently reported data identifying a polymorphism in the cystatin C gene (CST3) that increases the risk of two major degenerative diseases, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and Alzheimer’s disease.  Both these multifactorial diseases involve the age-related accumulation of extracellular deposits, linked to dysregulation of protein homeostasis. Since the advent of the genome-wide association study (GWAS) many SNPs have been found to be associated with these two diseases. However the SNP in CST3, which translates into an amino acid change in the leader sequence of the precursor protein, is the first identified to increase the risk of developing both diseases. Moreover the authors demonstrate that the risk associated with the mutant allele follows the same recessive model for both diseases. Thus only those individuals with two copies of the mutant cystatin allele are at elevated risk of developing both diseases.

Categories: Notable papers.

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