The role of autophagy during retinal development
The main objective of this project is to understand the role of autophagy for retinal ganglion cell survival during retinal development. Retinal ganglion cells are the only projecting neurons of the retina and their axons form the optic nerve, which connect the light sensitive retinal tissue with the visual cortex in the brain. Retinal ganglion cells are essential for vision and their death is associated with glaucoma, an age-related disease that is the second cause of blindness in the world.
Within this project the PhD student will determine whether autophagy and the autophagic flux increases during retinal ganglion cell neurogenesis, and correlate them with proliferation, differentiation and cell death. In addition the PhD student will study whether autophagy is essential for retinal ganglion cell neurogenesis and whether it is essential for cell survival. The PhD student will compare the phenotype of several autophagy-deficient mice during different developmental stages. Proliferation, differentiation and cell death will be assessed using several methods, including immunohistochemistry, flow cytometry and electron microscopy. Moreover we will also assess retinal ganglion cell cultures and models of axonal damage to retinal ganglion cells as model of glaucoma.