Jeff Mumm, PhD

My research career has been focused on neuronal regeneration since I started in the laboratory as an undergraduate. I have also long been fascinated by the eye, more specifically the retina. It is not surprising then that as a postdoctoral fellow I gravitated to a species capable of regenerating the retina, the zebrafish. Importantly, stem cells capable of repairing the zebrafish retina, called Müller glia, appear to retain the potential to regenerate the human eye. Revealing mechanisms that govern the regenerative potential of Müller glia is now the central focus of my research. I developed a targeted cell ablation technique that has helped to broaden the study of cellular regeneration and which, in effect, bridges the fields of regenerative biology and regenerative medicine. Despite clear relevance to many degenerative diseases, we know very little about the response to the loss of specific cell types in regenerative species. In my lab, we study how zebrafish Müller glia respond to the loss of specific cell types linked to retinal disease, such as photoreceptors and retinal ganglion cells. We and others have shown that selective retinal cell loss can elicit cell-specific regenerative responses. This differs markedly from a prevalent hypothesis that “regeneration recapitulates development”. My lab also emphasizes other unique advantages the zebrafish system affords, including large-scale genetic and chemical screening and high-resolution imaging of cellular dynamics in living models. Combining these approaches, we have discovered neuroprotective drugs, compounds and genes promoting retinal cell regeneration, and identified key roles for the immune system in regulating Müller glia regenerative potential.