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Using zebrafish models to understand inherited sight loss in childhood

Using zebrafish models to understand inherited sight loss in childhood content

A key ambition for Fighting Blindness is to support world class research that deepens our understanding of sight loss conditions and provides new avenues for cures and interventions.

Preliminary results from our Research Priorities Survey show that 70% of responders support increasing the number of world class researchers in Ireland through funding of early stage researchers! We are delighted to inform you of a new and exciting project funded by Fighting Blindness that started in January.

This project is a new PhD study being undertaken by Rebecca Ward at Prof Breandán Kennedy’s lab in University College Dublin (UCD). Her study in the lab will examine zebrafish models of inherited sight loss conditions such as Stargardt Disease and Leber congential amaurois (LCA).

Zebrafish are an ideal research tool because their eyes and genes are evolutionarily conserved with humans. They can also be easily genetically modified to mimic human disease.

By using these models of inherited disease, the team will study the function of genes that play a role in the visual cycle and ultimately sight loss conditions.

In parallel, the research team will also test neuroprotectant drugs to target pathways that may slow the death of photoreceptor cells, thus preserving vision for longer.

As part of her PhD, Rebecca will play a central role in developing a network of young vision researchers within Ireland and raise the profile of public and patient involvement in research.

Rebecca has been greatly involved in Fighting Blindness activities including volunteering at the Retina conference, the Women’s Mini Marathon, Glendalough Trail and also attending an information event in Dundalk last year.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to work with Fighting Blindness as part of my PhD programme. The goal of my research is to identify safe and effective drug therapies that can improve vision. Working with Fighting Blindness will also provide me with a platform to communicate my findings and involve those living with vision loss in my research. The prospect that my research could contribute to restoring arguably the most important sense is incredibly exciting.”  Rebecca Ward, PhD Student at UCD.

You can read more about the exciting research taking place at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcell.2018.00037/full