Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences at the Eye Institute

Collery Laboratory

The Collery laboratory seeks to understand mechanisms that underlie signaling and development in the eye that both contribute to retinal health, as well as influence eye size and refractive error, using approaches including: CRISPR/Cas9 genomic editing, live imaging of the eye using optical coherence tomography (OCT), refractive error measurement, transgenic zebrafish models, fluorescent protein visualization, and transcriptomic profiling.
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Our Mission

We seek to answer questions such as:

How do the retinal photoreceptors develop and communicate with the retinal pigment epithelia?
How do phototransduction and visual cycle proteins contribute to emmetropization and eye size control?
How do errors in eye development affect vision in later life?
How are retinal diseases caused by mutations in genes?

Research Overview

The Collery laboratory studies studies refractive error and retinal degeneration in the eye, and how they influence one another, often having a common genetic cause. Refractive error is common in inherited retinal degenerations, and conversely, refractive error can lead to retinal damage and degeneration. We are especially interested in retinoids, compounds derived from vitamin A, that control many functions of the eye. Mutations in retinoid transport proteins have been shown to cause refractive error and photoreceptor loss. For example, mutations in human STRA6, a retinoid receptor found on the retinal pigment epithelial layer, cause Matthew-Wood syndrome, characterized by microphthalmia and coloboma.

Research Areas

Studying how the RPE underlies photoreceptor support and function
Many blinding disorders profoundly affect the photoreceptors, though the first cells affected in these disorders are often the retinal pigment epithelial cells (RPE). The study of RPE-specific factors is a key interest in the Collery lab, which studies STRA6, a protein found on the basal side of RPE cells vital for transport of vitamin A analogs to the RPE and on to the photoreceptors. Understanding how the loss of STRA6 leads to ocular disease, and how we can treat the symptoms caused by its loss, will increase understanding of how visual disease affects patients, and what we can do to help them.
Investigating how cells and proteins in the eye affect its size and refractive state
Mutations in genes essential for phototransduction and retinoid recycling are often associated with refractive errors such as myopia and hyperopia. This suggests that normal visual responses are important to properly control the size of the eye, and that in their absence, the eye may grow too much (or too little), leading to symptoms of defocus and increased likelihood of pathological damage like glaucoma, cataracts, retinal detachment, and myopic macular degeneration. The Collery lab in investigating the effects of known and novel gene mutations on the refractive state in order to define pathways and cascades that regulate emmetropization of the eye. This work will shed light on some of the most common visual diseases, and will facilitate the search for treatments that can offset their pathological effects.

Laboratory Photos

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zebrafish retinal vasculature

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Meet Our Team


Ross Collery, PhD

Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences Assistant Professor of Cell Biology, Neurobiology and Anatomy


Asher Boucher

Year Entered MCW: 2023


Allison Hall

Year Entered MCW: 2023


Emily VanderPloeg

Research Technologist I

Educational Opportunities

Students interested in Graduate Education in the Collery Lab are invited to explore opportunities in the Neuroscience Doctoral Program and the Interdisciplinary Doctoral Program in Biomedical Sciences at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Past Funding

E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation for the Blind, Inc (PI)
Title: Understanding genetic causes of refractive error using zebrafish

Children’s Research Institute (CRI) Multi-Year Innovative Research (MIR) grant (co-I)
Title: New Therapeutic Approach for Retinopathy of Prematurity

Present Funding

NIH/NEI R21EY033558-02 (co-I; Melissa Skala, PhD is PI)
Title: Development and Validation of Photothermal Optical Coherence Tomography for Retinal Imaging

NIH/NEI R01EY015518 (co-I; Elena Semina, PhD is PI)
Title: Molecular mechanisms of anterior segment disorders

Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin Promising Extramural Score grant (PI)
Title: Retinoid Signaling and Homeostasis

Recent Publications