Retinal neurodegenerative diseases are a major cause of untreatable blindness worldwide. Neurobiology Neurodegeneration & Repair Laboratory (NNRL) scientists are defining fundamental biological pathways that guide differentiation of retinal neurons (such as photoreceptors and ganglion cells), elucidating genetic and biological defects associated with aging and neurodegeneration, and evaluating gene- and cell-based treatment modalities using stem cells and mouse models. There are three labs within the NNRL: the Retinal Development, Genetics and Therapy Section, the Retinal Cell Biology and Degeneration Section, and the Retinal Circuit Developement and Genetics Unit.
Section Chief: Anand Swaroop, Ph.D. The primary goal of our research is to develop novel therapies for retinal and macular degeneration by delineating cellular pathways and regulatory networks underlying photoreceptor development, aging, and disease. In addition to gene therapy, we are developing stem cell- based approaches for drug discovery and photoreceptor replacement. We seek to understand how photoreceptors originate from stem cells and form synaptic circuits to initiate complex visual process, and how their function is compromised during aging and in disease. We collaborate with scientists all over the world to identify genetic variants/mutations that cause or modify clinical phenotypes in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, cone dystrophies, Leber congenital amaurosis, or age-related macular degeneration.
Section Chief: Tiansen Li, Ph.D.
Unit Chief: Tudor Constantin Badea, M.D, Ph.D. We are using molecular genetic approaches to study the development of neuronal cell types, with a particular focus on neuronal arbor formation in retinal neurons.
BS, Eastern Michigan University
I perform analysis for next generation sequencing data. My particular interests are in photoreceptor development and the evolution of the retina.
Charles T. Drinnan, PhD
BSE, Tulane University; MS, PhD, University of Texas at Austin
My main project is to create in vitro disease models from patient-derived cells to understand disease progression and recovery. To this end, I am examining methods to improve the efficiency and efficacy of differentiation protocols to accelerate drug discovery and development of novel treatments.
Milton A. English, PhD
PhD, Mount Sinai Medical Center
My research focuses on whole Exome Sequencing [WES] of patients with various retinal degeneration. By performing WES, we hope to identify additional genes that are responsible for the genetic defect. Additionally, from the hundreds of WES we will be conducting, we hope to discover genetic modifies that can explain the penetrance of a particular retinal disease.
Administrative Lab Manager
BA, Wayne State University
BS, Texas Christian University
Jessica Gumerson, PhD
BGS, PhD University of Michigan
I'm interested in understanding the molecular mechanisms that contribute to inherited degenerative disease, and developing models to test potential therapies. My current focus is on RPGR and other cilia-associated proteins to understand how mutations affect photoreceptor health.
Administrative Lab Manager
I serve as the link between the lab and the administrative organizations within the Office of Administrative Management. I am responsible for all administrative issues as necessary to facilitate the work of the laboratory chief and staff, such as responding to inquiries and requests for information and drafting correspondence for the chief’s signature.
Animal Services Technician
Graduated from East China University of Science and Technology
I take care of the N-NRL common mouse lines.
Jacob Nellissery, PhD
Technical Lab Manager
PhD, Indian Institute of Science
My primary research interests are to study how cellular protein networks and pathways in retinal photoreceptors maintain homeostasis in the normal tissue and how alterations of these lead to retinal diseases. I am also interested in understanding how mitochondrial energetics plays a central role retinal health, aging and disease. I use a variety of experimental tools: protein-protein interaction assays, mass spectrometry, immuno-assays, and microscopy to identify interacting molecular partners and potential targets for future therapies.
Arturo Alonzo Rivera, MS
BS, MS, Adelphi University
I am interested in retinal histology and the molecular and genetic determinants of degeneration. I am also interested in microscopy and imaging.