The human eye is made from many diverse cell types in various tissue layers and structures. In diseased or damaged eyes the ability to replace defective or absent cell types has major therapeutic importance. Here retinal precursor cells need to be guided through various developmental steps in order to generate the required cell types. This grant aims to understand the processes of cell specification in a model retina;the developing Drosophila eye. The study is focused on the Notch and RTK signaling pathways. A series of complex interactions between these two pathways specify a number of distinct cell types, and we aim to use a variety of molecular, genetic and histological techniques to understand how the two signaling pathways are integrated and interpreted in the cells, and how this information then directs the specification of discrete retinal cell types.
In therapies to restore vision, an understanding is required of how to differentiate the cells needed to repopulate damaged or deficient regions of the eye. The Drosophila eye provides an excellent model system with which to define the molecular codes that direct the formation of the various retinal cell types. Once defined in this model system, ths understanding can then be used to direct the generation of human retinal cell types required for therapeutic intervention.