One of the first observations we make when seeing a new-born baby is how beautiful their eyes are. We may then comment on what, or how far they can see, or “whose eyes” they have inherited. We rarely consider just how these amazing visual organs came into being. Yet for a small percentage of the population this does not occur. Ocular birth defects affect approximately 1 in 5000 UK new-borns and can profoundly affect their vision. What are the genes that guide the process? How do these genes function normally and what happens when they fail to work properly? Can we use this information to help clinical practice? Could we even repair or make new eyes?
Our lab is tackling these questions by uncovering novel genes that are required for normal eye development and growth to expand our knowledge of what makes an eye. We are pioneering chick eye as a model system as it possesses many unique advantages that are perfect for understanding the genetic, and molecular requirements of a developing and functioning eye, including size, accessibility, ease of manipulation and the well-annotated genome.