Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Eileen Phan L&S Sciences

Myopia Growth Factor Gene Expression Regulation

Emmetropization is the process in which the eye adjusts its length based on the defocus it receives in order to achieve better clarity of vision. Ocular refractive errors such as myopia (near-sightedness) or hyperopia (far-sightedness) occur when there is a dysregulation in emmetropization, resulting in a mismatch of the eyes axial length and optical power creating blurred vision or defocus. Understanding the underlying mechanisms to this process is thus crucial to a cure for myopia which is a disease that affects hundreds of millions world-wide.
Prior research in the chick-model reveals three growth factors of particular importance to the development of refractive errors. Defocus sign-dependent bidirectional regulation of Bone Morphogenetic Protein-2 (BMP2), BMP4, and BMP7 gene expressions has been demonstrated in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) of the eye, a layer that separates the light-sensitive retina from the eyes outer structural layers. In my study, we will use different paradigms of visual manipulations including a wide range of negative and positive powered lenses as well as diffusers, to further investigate the temporal profiles of BMP gene expression in chick RPE. This study should provide important additional insights into the role of RPE-derived BMPs in defocus detection and the early stage of eye growth regulation.

Message To Sponsor

As a high myope, I have always been drawn to the ocular field and interested in understanding the origins of myopia. Thank you to SURF and the Pergo Foundation for allowing me the privilege of an entire summer dedicated to research unburdened by financial concerns and the schoolwork of normal year. This summer research fellowship will allow me deeper insight into the gene expression behind myopia and mold me into a more knowledgeable and experienced scientist.
Profile image of Eileen Phan
Major: Public Health
Mentor: Christine Wildsoet, Optometry
Sponsor: Pergo
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