UWF researcher funded to study fish eyes in hopes to regrow human retinas

Northwest Florida
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UWF biology student and Dr. Scott Taylor conducting research.

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — An assistant professor at the University of West Florida was given $400,000 from the National Eye Institute to study regenerating preceptor cells in zebrafish.

Dr. Scott Taylor with the Department of Biology at UWF says the research could lead to treating blindness in humans.

“(MiR-18a) might be extremely important for starting the regeneration process and at least helping to produce new photoreceptor cells. That’s really what we want to get at because in humans a lot of the retinal diseases destroy photoreceptors. So, we want to find ways to regenerate those cells in humans so that vision can be restored.”

Dr. Scott Taylor with the Department of Biology at UWF

Zebrafish can fully regenerate cells in their eyes even after extensive damage. The research will focus on using Clustered Regularly Interspaced Palindromic Repeats, or CRISPR, genome-editing techniques to explore how zebrafish regenerate the retinal cells that receive light and start the visual process.

“In other animals, including mammals, damage to the retina causes permanent blindness, but zebrafish can fully recover from this. Otherwise, our retinas are almost identical in terms of how they work and how they’re structured.”

Dr. Scott Taylor with the Department of Biology at UWF

Taylor has studied retinal regeneration at UWF for more than three years.
The grant will fund three years of work and will support research positions for undergraduate and graduate students. For more information about the UWF Department of Biology, visit uwf.edu/biology.

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