Elio Raviola, M.D.
Bullard Professor of Neurobiology
Department of Neurobiology
Goldensonbuilding, Rm. 240
220 Longwood Avenue
Boston, MA 2115
The objective of our research is to understand how the retina of mammals analyzes the visual world and encodes its spatial, temporal and chromatic contrast into a message of action potentials for safe sending to the brain. We investigate which chemical messages are converging upon each type of retinal neuron, the weight of these messages, their destination at the cell surface and their neuron of origin. To this purpose we combine molecular biology with microscopy and electrophysiology in the study of the functional wiring of the mouse retina. Homogeneous populations of retinal neurons are labeled by introducing into the mouse genome chimeric constructs consisting of a reporter gene and the promoters of genes whose products participate in visual processing. The promoters are those that regulate transcription of genes coding peptides, rate-limiting enzymes of transmitter metabolism, receptors and ion channels. The morphological parameters of the labeled cell populations are studied as well as their synaptic connections. Attempts are presently made to identify in vitro, after dissociation of the retina, the living cells that carry the reporter gene. In this way, it will be possible to study the voltage-and ligand-gated currents of the retinal neurons that carry the transgene by means of the whole-cell patch clamp technique and integrate the data thus obtained into the neural networks that were described anatomically.
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Last Update: 11/7/2013