The formation of tumors in the eye can cause blindness. But, for some reason our corneas, the transparent layer that forms the front of our eyes, have a natural ability to prevent it.
Researchers in the laboratory of UConn Health associate professor of neuroscience Royce Mohan believe they are closing in on an explanation for that. They detail their findings in what will be the cover article of September’s Journal of Neuroscience Research.
It has to do with a pair of catalytic enzymes called extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) in the peripheral nervous system. When the ERK1/2 are over-activated in a specific type of cell known as Schwann cells, the “anti-cancer privilege of the cornea’s supportive tissue can be overcome,” says Mohan, who holds the John A. and Florence Mattern Solomon Endowed Chair in Vision Sciences and Eye Diseases at UConn Health.
Mohan’s research group, led by Paola Bargagna-Mohan, assistant professor of neuroscience, has now established a link between overactive ERK1/2 and corneal fibrosis, the thickening and scarring of connective tissue….(more)
The Department of Neuroscience is proud to announce the Outstanding Research Award that recognizes a third year medical student for making significant contributions to the field of clinical research and/or laboratory research beyond their Phase 1 year summer experience goes to Alexandra Pietraszkiewicz. She obtained her research training in the Mohan laboratory and helped make pivotal findings on the roles of type III intermediate filament proteins in corneal fibrosis. Alexandra is currently completing an additional year of research at the National Eye Institute investigating human transciptome changes and global molecular processes that contribute to retinal diseases. This research experience is sponsored by the Medical Student Research Program at the National Institutes of Health.
Mason Yeh, postdoctoral fellow in Eric Levine’s laboratory, was awarded a seed grant from IBACS, the Connecticut Institute for the Brain and Cognitive Sciences, for a project, entitled “Development of a 3D culture model of human cortical development”. The goal of this project is to develop a three-dimensional cell culture system for growing cerebral organoids (sometimes referred to as “mini-brains”) from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The long-term goal is to use this culture system to study molecular and cellular pathophysiology underlying autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders, with the hope of identifying novel targets for therapeutic intervention.
Congratulations, Dr. Yeh! For a full listing of the 2017 IBACS awardees, http://ibacs.uconn.edu/research/.