Mapping the combinatorial code that generates bipolar cell diversity in the retina and identification of candidate human ocular disease genes

The retina is a thin sensory structure that lines the inside of the eye. Visual information is captured in the retina by cells called photoreceptors which convert the energy of light into electrical signals. Prior to the transmission of signals to the brain, visual information is processed through a class of cells found in the inner retina, the retinal interneurons. These retinal cells integrate and modulate the signals received by photoreceptors and relay the processed information via ganglion cells to the brain. Without retinal interneurons, we would be unable to process visual information and consequently, we would be unable to see. Very little is known about the birth and development of the bipolar cell class of retinal interneurons or the contribution of this cell class to visual disorders. Recent work has determined that visual pathway dysfunction is one of the leading causes of visual impairment, highlighting the need for biomedical research in this area. Erin Star’s research is focused on deciphering the molecular mechanisms that generate and regulate the formation of the bipolar cell class of retinal interneurons. Knowledge gained through this research will contribute to our understanding of fundamental retinal biology, and it is anticipated that ultimately this research will provide the insight necessary to address and effectively treat inherited disorders of the visual system.