Christine Wildsoet, Professor

Closed (1) Why and how to eyes become myopic or short-sighted?

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Myopia or short-sightedness has become the focus of increasing concern as its prevalence steadily climbs. Figures of around 90% have been recorded for some Asian university student populations and a recent US-based study also reported a dramatic increase in the prevalence of myopia, especially among AfroAmericans. Myopia is a problem of the eye growing too long for its optical power, with a typical onset around adolescence. The posterior vitreous chamber of the eye is the site of this growth and in its extreme, it carries an increased risk of retinal detachment and other complications that may lead to blindness. Treatments are urgently needed to prevent myopia and/or slow its progression, but these are only possible with a better understanding of how eyes grow and myopia develops. There is now little doubt that the increasing prevalence of myopia is a consequence of environmental factors. Two project areas are being offered, one involving the chick as an animal model for myopia, and the other involving human myopic subjects.

Work with animal models offer the most promise of developing successful treatments. However, there is increasing pressure to develop tissue and cell culture-based paradigms for use in such research. My lab is involved in both in vivo and in vitro animal as well as human-based studies. As an apprentice in my laboratory, you would be required to commit a minimum of 1 day a week in equivalent hours, which would be distributed across the week according to the current needs of the project and your other class commitments.

Animal and tissue/cell culture-based projects: Chickens have proved to be a very reliable model to work with in this context, providing important leads in this research field. However, the cartilaginous outer scleral wall of the chick eye contrasts with the less rigid fibrous wall of mammalian eyes, introduces likely differences in their biomechanical properties, with implications for how eyes enlarge. On-going projects will make use of both chicks and guinea pigs as animal models to study the mechanisms underlying eye growth regulation. We are interested particularly in how the eye decodes the direction of out-of-focus images, and how growth signals generaetd by the retina, the seeing layer of the eye, are relayed across the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) to the sclera, the outer wall of the eye. Additional projects use scleral cell culture to examine the role of micro(mi)RNAs in scleral growth and remodeling in myopia. One of the longer term aims of this research is to develop anti-myopia therapies, using gene manipulations or drugs, and either targeting RPE and miRNAs.

Student apprentices should have a biological background. Projects being offered addressing the effects of visual manipulations on local ocular molecular signal pathways regulating and are best suited to those with strong biochemical/molecular biological/bioengineering backgrounds and interests. Apprentices should expect to be involved in all aspects of our lab's research, including lab maintenance and monitoring of animals, as well as tasks specific to their individual project. Data analysis is a component of most projects (e.g. ultrasonography data).

Mentoring: Students are mostly paired with more senior undergraduate students and/or graduate students and clinician scientists for their project work. As principal investigator, I see my role as helping students learn about scientific methodology, to improve their critical analysis skills, to equip them with some new "hands-ons" skills, and perhaps most importantly, to foster their interest and enthusiasm for research.

Students will be involved in this research at a level commensurate with their previous experience and knowledge. As they become more familiar with the techniques used in their assigned project, received appropriate training as necessary and have demonstrated competence, they can expected to be more engaged at a hands-on level.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Drs Yan Zhang & Ravi Metlapally

Qualifications: Majors in molecular cell biology, integrative biology and bioengineering generally make good fits with these projects. Sophomore and juniors are generally targeted, to allow time for initial training and subsequent active hands-on engagement in research, which is more rewarding for everyone.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: http://vision.berkeley.edu/wildsoet/
Related website: http://wildsoetlab.berkeley.edu/index.php?title=Wildsoet_Lab

Open (2) Myopia development in young guinea pigs and influence of intraocular pressure (IOP) lowering drugs on myopia progression and related pathology.

Open. Apprentices needed for the fall semester. Please do NOT contact faculty before September 11th (the start of the 4th week of classes)! Enter your application on the web beginning August 16th. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, August 29th at 8 AM.

This project has a number of different aspects. One aspect involves collection of optical images of the back of the eye, using an advanced high resolution SD-OCT imagining machine. Initial work will involve images already collected. It will involves working with large amounts of data in excel, using smoothing techniques, and finding relevant points. Another aspect involves experimentally inducing refractive errors, including myopia and examining the effects of IOP-lowering drugs on both the amount of induced myopia and ocular structures, including the appearance of the optic nerve head at the back of the eye. Both projects include light and/or electron microscopy analysis of various ocular tissues.

Student participation in on-going hands-on data collection from our animal subjects is optional.

Two student researchers are being sought to help with 1) electron microscopy analysis of the changes in the tissues at the back of the eye, and 2) analysis of collected SD-OCT and electron microscopy images. The URAP students will be expected to work closely with their mentor during the beginning training period but over the course of the semester, to accept increasing responsibility for organizing their own time to accomplish set tasks in a timely manner. For the first project, they would undergo training in electron microscopy.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Nevin El Nimri, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Proficiency in excel or other data bases is desired. The image analysis aspects of the project is best suited to a sophomore or junior student with a major in EECS or Bioengineering. Other aspects would suit a student with biology/medical interests (Public health, Integrative Biology Molecular and Cell Biology, Bioengineering majors).

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: .

Closed (3) High resolution imaging of the back layers of the human eye - what makes the difference between near sighted (myopic) and normal (emmetropic) eyes and changes with optical defocus and near vision tasks.

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Myopia or near-sightedness has become the focus of increasing concern as its prevalence steadily climbs. Figures of around 90% have been recorded recently for some Asian university student populations. Myopia is a problem of the eye growing too long for its optical power, with a typical onset before or around adolescence. The posterior vitreous chamber of the eye is the site of this growth and in its extreme, myopia carries an increased risk of detachment of the retina (seeing layer), due to its excessive thinning during this enlargement process. The vascular choroidal layer, underlying the retina, also thins. Recently, it has been shown that the latter choroidal layer can also actively thicken or thin, to move the retina forward or backward to help focus the eye. High resolution ocular imaging (OCT) systems are able to detect these changes, although techniques for analyzing captured images are lagging behind advances in instrumentation.

Mentoring: Two clinician scientists, both using in vivo ocular imaging in their research, will share mentoring responsibilities.

The student will initially be involved refining methods of image analysis and assist in analysis of collected images. They will also have opportunity to observe the collection of images and after suitable training, also assist in image collection.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Drs Elise Harb and Sarah Kochik, Post-Doc

Qualifications: Apprentices with backgrounds in maths/computer science is required and proficiency in excel or other data bases is desired. This project is best suited to a junior student with a major in EECS or Bioengineering.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: http://vision.berkeley.edu/wildsoet/
Related website: http://wildsoetlab.berkeley.edu/index.php?title=Wildsoet_Lab

Closed (4) Do myopes spend less time outdoors and what do they look at - Three projects involving 1) wearable light sensors/activity monitors, 2) digitally recording the visual environment, and 3) assessment of near focussing accuracy and eye movements during reading.

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There is increasing interest in the role of sunlight and light exposure in the development of myopia. In this project, we are using a wearable light sensor/activity monitor (Actiwatch), for human subjects. The sensor will record the intensity of light subjects are exposed to, and will allow us to determine how much time they spent indoors and outdoors. The activity monitor allows us to determine how much time subjects are engaged in active physical activity.

A second component of this project concerns digital photography of the visual environment. We will have subjects take pictures of their visual environment at designated intervals throughout the day; this will give us an idea of how much time is spent indoors and in nearwork - reading, computer use - vs. outdoors.

A third component of this project involves measurement of near focussing behavior during reading.

For the light sensor/activity monitoring component of this project, the student will help with screening subjects, delivering and collecting the Actiwatches and downloading and analyzing collected data.

For the second components of the project, which involves characterizing the visual environment of subjects, the student will be involved in analyzing the digital images and developing and/or testing out scripts.

For the third aspect of the object, students will help with data collection and analysis.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Elise Harb, Post-Doc

Qualifications: Experience with programming and data logging from sensors is a plus. This project is suitable for a sophomore or junior student with a major in EECS or Bioengineering. For the second and third components of the project, understanding of cameras, optics, Exif data, and natural scene statistics is desirable. An ability to create scripts to extract and analyze data from cameras is a plus.This project is suitable for a sophomore or junior student with a major in EECS, Bioengineering or Physics.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated