NeuroDegeneration & Functional Regeneration

University of Alberta

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

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research Programs

  1. 1.Discovery of genes and cellular events required for functional cone photoreceptor regeneration (restoring vision!).  We have developed novel cell ablation paradigms, along with the ability to measure the proper rewiring of regenerated photoreceptors using behaviour and ERGs.

  2. 2.Exploring the visual ecology of interesting fishes, especially the elaborate patterning of photoreceptors. We use the genetic toolkit of zebrafish to address our hypotheses about photoreceptor patterning and genes underpinning retinal development. 

  3. 3.Investigating how mis-folded proteins spread neurodegeneration through the CNS in Alzheimer and Prion Disease (e.g. ‘Mad Cow’ Disease).  We have developed zebrafish models of these diseases, established gene knockouts using zinc finger nucleases, and also use zebrafish to understand how genetic and cellular interactions influence disease spread. 

The neurons of the Central Nervous System underpin how we experience the world.  In humans these CNS neurons cannot be replaced if they are damaged or lost.  Thus neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer Disease leads to memory deficits and dementia, whereas neuron (photoreceptor) death in Retinitis Pigmentosa leads to vision loss and blindness.  However most animals, including fish, have a robust ability to replace damaged neurons.  Overall our research seeks to discover and study genes that are important in neuron degeneration, while also discovering and manipulating genes that underpin repair of the CNS via regeneration.  We often turn to studying the neurons of the retina as an accessible part of the CNS.  Our experiments focus on zebrafish both as a paradigm to address hypotheses of CNS evo-devo, and as a potent model of human disease.   Overarching research programs we are most excited about include:


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