Biological Sciences

Events and seminars

Crafting "function" from "form" using cell proliferation and the cytoskeleton in the eye lens

Roy A Quinlan, University of Durham

19th January 2017 at 3:30pm [Download iCalendar / .ics file]

Michael Swann, 7.20

The eye lens is a deceptively simple tissue, but it is a prime example of the D&³1;Arcy Thompson principle that "Form and Function” are linked. Our research addresses fundamental questions such as how do cells know their relative position in a tissue? What emergent properties are important for tissue formation? We believe that at least part of the answer to these questions lies in the lens epithelium. It is here that the iconic hexagonal shape of the lens fibre cells is established and the consequential spatial order established. During development this is easy to rationalize as the lens increases layer by layer onto a preformed template, but what happens when the lens regenerates? What determines the organization of the lens fibre cells in that scenario? We have built an interdisciplinary research team (John Girkin, Chris Saunter (Physics), Junjie Wu and Boguslaw Obara (SECS) with skills needed to study cell dynamics in the living zebrafish and in regenerating rat lenses. We have produced a mathematical model for the lens epithelium and we hope eventually to have a finite element model for lens accommodation. Along the way, we are studying the role of the intermediate filament cytoskeleton and their associated protein chaperones in maintaining lens optical functions, their effects upon cell shape and how ageing and disease affect their respective functions. The eye lens is a system that illuminates all the major key biological questions on ageing, cancer prevention, apoptosis as well as protein longevity. I shall select examples from my research portfolio to illustrate how form and function are linked so perfectly in the eye lens.

Host Eric Schirmer

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