Office of Research Ocular Cell Imaging - Office of Research

Ocular Cell Imaging

Ocular Cell Imaging

The Challenge

Develop a noninvasive imaging approach to simultaneously, quantitatively assess cellular morphology and many basic functions that could ultimately improve therapeutic strategies for a variety of diseases.

Ocular Cell Imaging

Why It Is Important

A major challenge of 21st century biomedical science is to translate advances in mechanistic understanding of molecular and cellular events into effective therapy.  A major obstacle to achieving this goal is the difficulty of observing cellular function in the living organism. An iconic example is the ability to induce a stem cell to express markers of differentiation in vitro, suggesting commitment to a particular adult cell type, tantalizing us with the dream of functional tissue regeneration.  But we generally lack the ability to observe in vivo the localization of a stem cell to its targeted site, follow the time course of its differentiation, and then in that same animal demonstrate acquisition of proper cellular function, as required for definitive therapy.  Other state-of-the art potential therapies are likewise stymied by the problem of assessing treatment efficacy at the cellular level in live animals.

Our Approach

The UC Davis RISE Eye-Pod Facility is comprised of a team of engineers, biologists and clinicians from six departments of the Schools of Engineering, Medicine and Biological Sciences, who will apply adaptive optics (AO) imaging to non-invasively observe marked individual cells in the eyes of live animals over their lifespan.  AO technology will enable simultaneous, quantitative assessment of cellular morphology and many basic functions, to be used in testing of stem-cell and other therapeutic strategies in animal models of major diseases.   This effort will also create a model of interdisciplinary, team-based problem solving in which students and postdoctoral scholars will learn the skills to assemble and administer such teams.

Impacts & Highlights

  • First experiments establishing rodent eye as a valuable non-invasive window for studying cancer nanotherapeutics were conducted
  • Extensive development of methods for optical observation and manipulation of retinal micro-vasculature in vivo
  • Further improvements of the Adaptive Optics for mouse retinal imaging, including development of an efficient, wavefront-sensorless approach were made
  • First experiments measuring photoreceptor and RPE function using truly nondisruptive, all optical (near infrared OCT) methods were conducted
  • Successful funding of two major NIH grants with total direct cost of ~$5 million


Edward Pugh Professor of Physiology & Membrane Biology
Nadean Brown Associate Professor of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Marie Burns Professor of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Fitz-Roy Curry Professor of Physiology & Membrane Biology
Paul Fitzgerald Professor of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Tom Glaser Professor of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Kit Lam Professor and Chair of Biochemistry & Molecular Medicine
Susanna Park Professor of Ophthalmology & Vision Science
John Werner Professor of Neurobiology, Physiology & Behavior
Glenn Yiu Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology
Anna La Torre Assistant Professor of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Robert Zawadzki Associate Researcher of Ophthalmology
Suman Manna Postdoc of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Pengfei Zhang Postdoc of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Mayank Goswami Postdoc of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Helen Wand, MD Postdoc of Cell Biology & Human Anatomy
Eric B. Miller Graduate Student of Neuroscience

For more information on this program, please contact Christine Parks