Biology Professor Ann Morris' lab contains approximately 200 individual fish tanks, but only one type of fish. Having recently secured a $1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Morris will continue investigating zebrafish and the insight they offer in regard to solutions for human retinal degeneration. The NIH grant, titled, “The role of insm1 in vertebrate photoreceptor differentiation,” will be funded over five years and focuses on zebrafish to better understand genetic pathways that control the development of the retina. "Mammals cannot regenerate photoreceptors, because the retina is part of the central nervous system, and like other neurons in the brain, when you damage them you can't replace them," Morris said. "So that means when people get genetic diseases where the neurons, particularly the photoreceptors, start to die or to degenerate, there's no way of replacing those cells, so eventually they go blind. While that's true for mammals, it's not true for fish. Fish can regenerate photoreceptors." Morris' study focuses on both the development of the retina and photoreceptor regeneration in fish, as she hopes to gain insight that could eventually be applied to the development of cell-based therapies for human retinal regeneration.
Video courtesy of University of Kentucky Public Relations. uknow.uky.edu/multimedia/video