Using miRNAs to Accelerate in vitro Circuit Maturation in 3D Neural Structures from ESCs

This project will address two major roadblocks in neuronal maturation—diversity of cells in the brain and the developmental “clock”—in the context of the retina. The retina is ideal for these studies because it is a self-contained part of the nervous system with known cell types and stereotypic connections that have well-defined functions. The project will determine how closely the neural circuitry in a stem cell-derived retina resembles its normal in vivo counterpart, and will also investigate whether small RNAs, called microRNAs, control the developmental clock of maturation in the retina. Understanding the function of microRNAs in the retina, which appear to control the clock of maturation throughout our lives, will lead to better models of neurological diseases of aging and provide a basis for building a functional nervous system in the laboratory.

Affiliated Investigators

Thomas Reh, Ph.D.

University of Washington

Dr. Thomas Reh is a Professor in the Department of Biological Structure at the University of Washington. His research is in neural development and regeneration. A primary focus of this work is to understand the mechanisms that control developmental time during mouse and human neurogenesis and use these findings to stimulate repair processes. Previously, Dr. Reh was a AHFMR Scholar and an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellow, and more recently has been awarded the Board of Director's Award from the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Fred Rieke, Ph.D.

University of Washington

Dr. Fred Rieke is a Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His research focuses on neural computation - particularly how neural circuits support the impressive sensitivity of our sensory systems. His lab focuses on both normal and aberrant signaling in the retina.

Rachel Wong, Ph.D.

University of Washington

Dr. Rachel Wong is a Professor in the Department of Biological Structure at the University of Washington. Her research is focused on elucidating the cellular mechanisms that underlie the proper development, maintenance and regeneration of circuits in the vertebrate retina. A primary interest of this work is to understand the mechanisms that control neuronal maturation in vivo and in vitro, and apply this knowledge to circuit repair. Previously, Dr. Wong was a C.J. Martin and R.D. Wright Fellow (Australia), an Alfred P. Sloan and a Esther A. and Joseph Klingenstein Fellow.