Retinal neurogenesis and lamination: What to become, where to become it and how to move from there!

The vertebrate retina is an important outpost of the central nervous system, responsible for the perception and transmission of visual information. It consists of five different types of neurons that reproducibly laminate into three layers, a process of crucial importance for the organ’s function. Unsurprisingly, impaired fate decisions as well as impaired neuronal migrations and lamination lead to impaired retinal function. However, how processes are coordinated at the cellular and tissue level and how variable or robust retinal formation is, is currently still underexplored.

In my lab, we aim to shed light on these questions from different angles, studying on the one hand differentiation phenomena and their variability and on the other hand the downstream migration and lamination phenomena. We use zebrafish as our main model system due to its excellent possibilities for live imaging and quantitative developmental biology. More recently we also started to use human retinal organoids as a comparative system. We further employ cross disciplinary approaches to address these issues combining work of cell and developmental biology, biomechanics, theory and computer science. Together, this allows us to integrate cell with tissue-wide phenomena and generate an appreciation of the reproducibility and variability of events.