Richard H. Masland, Ph.D.

Research Story

Dr. Richard H. Masland  studies the normal cell biology of the neural retina, and it's disorders.  For many years Masland's lab has been concerned with the cell populations and synaptic interrelations of the retina.  A number of cell types within the retina were discovered in this lab, and an ongoing concern is the retina neurome – a listing of all of the cells present in the retina.  To a first approximation, this "parts list"  is complete.  It was instrumental to the current concept of the retina;  it is a multiply parallel system containing in excess of 60 cell types, organized into more than a dozen parallel informational channels  An important piece of unfinished business is to characterize the array of retinal ganglion cells, which come in close to 30 different types, each transmitting a different transformation of the visual scene to the brain. The focus is to identify the functional types of ganglion cell in the retina of the mouse. The importance of this problem, being studied with collaborators from genetics and computer vision, is that the ganglion cell types define the fundamental elements from which visual perception is built. The mouse is important because of its accessibility to genetic manipulations, most notably those that alter the functions of individual ganglion cell types; ultimately the contribution of the individual channels to mouse vision will be learned.

Dr. Masland is also interested in the optogenetic treatment of retinal degenerations.  His lab published an early experiment demonstrating this strategy, using melanopsin as the light-sensitive protein and viral transduction of retinal ganglion cells to restore simple visual abilities to mice blind from an inherited degeneration.  Present work seeks to optimize the visual replacement strategy, and to learn how to apply it in primates.