The College of Medicine's Department of Neuroscience is the recipient of $1.1 million from the National Eye Institute to study the retinal glia, which support neuronal function and survival. Researchers are hopeful for a better understanding of the mechanisms that regulate the functions of glial cells, which is important to the development of new therapies to treat sight-threatening diseases of the retina.
Andrew Fischer, associate professor of Neuroscience, says identification and understanding the mechanisms that regulate the neuron-supporting actions and neurogenic potential of Müller glia-derived progenitors are key to developing new therapies to treat degenerative disease of the retina. Müller glia are known to have the potential to become neurogenic progenitor cells.
"Our research seeks to identify important signaling pathways that enhance the ability of Müller glia to become proliferating progenitors and produce new functional neurons. A goal of this project is to study the molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways that regulate glial functions related to reactivity, proliferation and neuronal regeneration," adds Fischer, principal investigator of the study.
Another goal of this project, Fischer says, is to investigate how to enhance the ability of retinal glia to support the survival or retinal neurons by regulating cell signaling pathways. Outcomes of the study will provide valuable new insights into the factors and signaling mechanisms that regulate inter-glial communication, glia-mediated neuronal regeneration and survival-supporting actions of retinal glia, according to the researchers.