James and Jean Culver Vision Discovery Institute

Annual Scientific Meetings

The Culver Vision Discovery Institute gathers annually to present the progress and innovation within the member labs. This structured meeting features both intra and extramural lecturers. The keynote address is delivered by individuals whose scope of research has proven its impact at the national or international level.

The intramural lectures are selected to showcase work being done locally. Most of the labs have posters displayed for review in the poster sessions or between lectures. The meeting generally closes with a group discussion on future direction and strategic planning. This includes discussion on translational merit and impact and consideration for future speakers and formats.

Strategies to prolong cone photoreceptor survival

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016 - Thursday, March 31st, 2016   (Agenda below)

Keith Green Lecturer: Constance Cepko, Ph.D.
University: Harvard University
Rank: Bullard Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience
Rank: Professor of Ophthalmology
Rank: Co-Director, Leder Human Biology/Translational Medicine Program

Location: AU Summerville Campus Ballroom
Dr. Keith Green Lectureship keynote address
“Strategies to prolong cone photoreceptor survival”

The Dr. Keith Green Lectureship for the 8th Annual Culver Vision Discovery Institute Retreat will be delivered by Constance L. Cepko, Ph.D. Dr. Cepko is the Bullard professor of genetics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School. She is professor of ophthalmology at Massachusetts eye and ear infirmary and the founder and co-director of the Leder program in human biology and translational medicine. Dr. Cepko is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Dr. Cepko earned her PhD in Biology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge working with Dr. Philip Sharp and pursued her post-doctoral training with Dr. Richard Mulligan at the Whitehead Institute. She joined the faculty of Harvard Medical School in 1985. She has many honors to her credit including induction to the National Academy of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received the David Cogan award as outstanding young investigator in vision science in the early 90’s and more recently the Clifford Barger Award for Mentoring and the Alfred Bressler Award in Vision Science. She has served the vision science community in many capacities including the National Advisory Eye Council and NEI Board of Scientific Counselors. Dr. Cepko has published nearly 200 peer reviewed manuscripts in outstanding journals including the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Neuron, Cell, Development. Among her editorial duties, she serves on the board of PNAS.

Cepko’s manifold contributions to vision research include elucidating mechanisms that direct development and degeneration of the vetebrate central nervous system (CNS). She has focused her studies on retina and uses genomics approaches to determine how the retina uses a large repetoire of genes to form this complex tissue of >60 neuronal cell types. She conducts lineage studies wherein she and her team “mark” individual progenitor cells in vivo, and analyze the types of neurons produced. She has developed an electroporation method and a series of plasmids that promote the regulated expression of short hairpin RNAs, cDNA, or multiple genes and shRNA species, which allows for rapid assessment of gene function, including genetic epistasis. Additionally, Dr. Cepko’s research has been focused on unraveling mechanisms of death of photoreceptor cells. She has used mouse models of diseases, especially retinitis pigmentosa, and demonstrated that increasing levels of a key antioxidant regulatory gene (Nrf2) can markedly enhance survival of cone cells in a severe retinopathy model. The journal club that our graduate students will discuss on the first afternoon of the retreat will highlight Dr. Cepko’s PNAS 2015 paper describing these exciting findings.


The Posters Expected: 20
1. Sally El-Shaer, Ph.D.Student
“Modulation of P75NTR receptor protects against ischemia: possible contribution of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)”
2. Yara Samra, Ph.D.Student
“Adenosine deaminase-2-induced permeability increase in HRECs is suppressed by miR-146b-3p”
3. Folami Powell, Ph.D.
“GPR109A activation reduces macrophage infiltration and subsequent neurodegeneration in a non-autoimmune model of uveitis”
4. Rachel Cui, M.D., Ph.D.
"Lack of Sigma 1 receptor worsens the neurodegenerative phonotype in Ins2Akita/+ diabetic mice"
5. Jingwen Cai, Ph.D.Student
"DNA methylation in human SC cells with glaucoma"
6. Mariam Khaled, Ph.D.Student
“Optimization of exosome isolation from serum and conditional media"
7. Michelle Drewry, Ph.D.
“miRNA-Seq with multiple human ocular tissues”
8. Inas Helwa, BDS, Ph.D.
“A comparative study of serum exosome isolation using differential ultracentrifugation and three commercial reagents”
9. Barbara Mysona, Ph.D.
"Role of sigma-1 receptor in secretion of BDNF by optic nerve head astrocytes"
10. Neal Kansara, Medical Student
"Sigma 1 Receptor Expression in a Microbead Model of Glaucoma"
11. Soumya Navneet, Ph.D.Student
“Excess homocysteine induces oxidative stress in retinal Müller glial cells"
12. Rizwan Shaikh, M.D.
"Elevated homocysteine in the vitreous of diabetic patients and blood of type 1 and 2 diabetic animal models; Potential role of homocysteine in blood retinal barrier dysfunction"
13. Xiaowen Lu, Ph.D.
“VDR knockout effects on corneal epithelial wound healing of diabetic mice”
14. Ming Zhang, Ph.D.
“Inhibition of autophagy by HSV-1 BBD promotes retinal cell death”
15. Ahmed Ibrahim, Ph.D.
“Differential activity of systemic and retinal 12/15- lipoxygenases in a mouse model of diabetes"
16. Esraa Shosha, Ph.D.Student
"Neurovascular injury after retinal ischemia reperfusion insult:contrasting roles of arginase enzyme isoforms"
17. Menaka Thounaojam, Ph.D.
"Thioredoxin reductase 1 and mitochondrial dysfunction in the diabetic retinal vasculature"
18. Maha Coucha, Ph.D.
“Modulating expression of thioredoxin interacting protein prevents secondary damage and preserves visual function in a model of ischemia/reperfusion”
19. Ollya Fromal, Medical Student
“Blockade of NLRP3 inflammasome activation in diabetic retina by the ketone metabolite beta-hydroxybutyrate is mediated by GPR109A”
20. Prahalathan Pichavaram, Ph.D.
“Overexpression of spermine oxidase enhances excitotoxicity- mediated retinal neuroinflammation”
*Incomplete degree information   
The Agenda
March 30th, 2016, Wednesday
2:00 pm ~ Poster set-up
2:45 pm ~ Sylvia Smith, Ph.D.
Welcome/Introductory remarks
2:45 pm ~ Jaya P. Gnanaprakasam, Ph.D.
Welcome/Introductory remarks
3:00 pm ~ Soumya Navneet, Ph.D. Student - Dr Sylvia Smith
Journal Club
3:00 pm ~ Mariam Khaled, Ph.D. Student - Dr Yutao Liu
Journal Club
3:00 pm ~ Khaled El-Masry, Ph.D. Student - Dr Mohamed Al-Shabrawey
Journal Club
3:00 pm ~ Jingwen Cai, Ph.D. Student - Dr Yutao Liu
Journal Club
4:15 pm ~ Break
4:30 pm ~ Rizwan Shaikh, M.D.
Data Blitz: highlighting poster presentations
4:30 pm ~ Maha Coucha, Ph.D.
Data Blitz: highlighting poster presentations
4:30 pm ~ Ollya Fromal, Medical Student
Data Blitz: highlighting poster presentations
4:30 pm ~ Yara A. Samra, Ph.D. Student
Data Blitz: highlighting poster presentations
4:30 pm ~ Soumya Navneet, Ph.D. Student
Data Blitz: highlighting poster presentations
4:30 pm ~ Barbara Mysona, Ph.D
Data Blitz: highlighting poster presentations
5:15 pm ~ Reception
March 31st, 2016, Thursday
7:30 am ~ Refreshments
8:15 am ~ Julian Nussbaum, M.D.
Introductory remarks
8:25 am ~ Peter F. Buckley, MD
Welcome remarks:
8:35 am ~ Michael P. Diamond, MD
Welcome remarks:
8:40 am ~ Sylvia Smith, Ph.D.
VDI Update
9:00 am ~ Julian Nussbaum, M.D.
Introduction of keynote speaker
9:10 am ~ Constance L. Cepko, Ph.D.
“Strategies to prolong cone photoreceptor survival”
10:10 am ~ Q & A Session
10:25 am ~ Break
10:40 am ~ Albert Pan, Ph.D.
“Zebrafish visual circuit connectivity analysis with transsynaptic virus and 3D brain mapping”
10:40 am ~ Yutao Liu, M.D., Ph.D.
10:55 am ~ Shruti Sharma, Ph.D.
“Identification of urinary biomarkers in diabetic retinopathy using a novel proteomics approach”
11:10 am ~ Amany Tawfik, M.D., MSc
“Hyperhomocysteinemia disrupts retinal pigment epithelial structure and function with features of age-related macular degeneration”
11:25 am ~ Luncheon and Poster Session
1:25 pm ~ Manuela Bartoli, Ph.D.
“Small size big plans: microRNAs and diabetic retinopathy”
1:25 pm ~ Esraa Shosha, Ph.D. Student
1:40 pm ~ Jing Wang, Ph.D.
“Targeting Sigma 1 receptor in inherited retinal degeneration”
1:55 pm ~ Riyaz Mohamed, Ph.D.
“Inducible overexpression of endothelial proNGF as a Mouse model to study retinal microvascular dysfunction\\\"
2:10 pm ~ Break
2:20 pm ~ Chintan Patel, Ph.D.
“Inhibition of polyamine oxidase reduces hyperoxia-induced retinal neuro- vascular injury”
2:20 pm ~ Folami Powell, Ph.D.
2:35 pm ~ Danlin Mao, M.D.
“Glaucoma neuroprotection via activation of the sigma-1 receptor ligand (+)- pentazocine”
2:50 pm ~ Sylvia Smith, Ph.D.
Discussion of VDI initiatives and future directions