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Revolutionizing retinal studies

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Christopher Driskell
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Charles Lieber and his group are rewriting the rules of how scientists study retinal cells, and they're doing it with a single injection.

For decades, scientists hoping to understand how the retina interprets visual input have often had to resort to invasive techniques to dissect the retina from the animal in an effort to record the cells' activity, but a new system developed by Lieber, the Joshua and Beth Friedman University Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, and Guosong Hong, a post-doctoral fellow working in Lieber's lab, make it possible to track the firing patterns of dozens of cells chronically in awake animals.

In a new study, Lieber and Hong not only demonstrated that the system offers new opportunities to track the activity of retinal cells, but were also able to use the system to reveal new information about how retinal ganglion cells behave over the course of multiple circadian cycles.

The study is described in a June 29 paper published in Science, in collaboration with Joshua Sanes, the Paul J. Finnegan Family Director of Harvard Center for Brain Science and the Jeff C. Tarr Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology, with other leading authors Tian-Ming Fu, a former graduate student in the Lieber lab, and Mu Qiao, a former graduate student in the Sanes lab.

"Since the 1970s, the only way to measure this fundamental sensory input has been with invasive, surgical procedures to remove the eye from the animal, (so) I think this opens up completely new opportunities for vision research.

Even as we were documenting this new methodology, we were able to find new biology...so I think this will be an important new tool that can transform what people thought they could do in this field."

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