Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at the Eye Institute

Dr. Ross Collery Receives Grant to Study the Role of STRA6 in the Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE) of the Eye

Ross Collery, PhDRoss Collery, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, was awarded a five-year, $1.93 million R01 grant from the National Eye Institute at the National Institutes of Health to investigate the role of STRA6 in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of the eye using zebrafish as a model organism.

STRA6 is a critically important transporter of vitamin A in the eye, and its loss in humans is associated with microphthalmia (small eyes), anophthalmia (no eyes), and coloboma (“keyhole-shaped” defect in the eye). STRA6 facilitates the import of vitamin A from the bloodstream to help photoreceptor function, but its role as a conduit of cellular signaling has not yet been explored. Studying how different cell types within the eye communicate is critical for understanding both normal eye function as well as blinding diseases and therapeutic development. Zebrafish are an excellent model organism to study the eye as they are highly visual animals, with abundant cone photoreceptors and good color vision, like humans.

In this grant, Dr. Collery will focus on three important goals to better understand STRA6 signaling in the eye: identifying genes whose expression is mediated by STRA6 in the RPE, determining which genetic pathways are important for normal RPE function, and studying genetic mutants whose RPE may model human diseases caused by STRA6 mutation.

This grant will add considerably to the understanding of how visual diseases arise in human patients, and will highlight potential therapeutic targets that may help to prevent or reverse loss of vision to improve quality of life.