Ryan MacDonald, PhD
I am a Lecturer and BBSRC David Phillips Fellow at the Institute of Ophthalmology (IoO) at UCL. The IoO is the world-leading centre in eye research with a strong emphasis on the clinical translation of basic research. At the IoO my laboratory is interested in how you build and maintain a healthy eye. More specifically I study the highly coordinated patterning of glial cells in the embryonic retina and how defects in this system may have consequences for neuronal survival and function, both in the context of healthy ageing and degenerative disease.
My research career began as a PhD student at the University of Ottawa in Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Marc Ekker. It was in his laboratory that I first used the zebrafish as a model organism to study gene regulatory networks controlling the specification of GABAergic interneurons in the brain. After my PhD I was keen to continue studying neural specification, as such I took up a postdoc looking at Drosophila neurogenesis with Professor Stefan Thor in Sweden. Taking my knowledge of genetics and gene regulation I joined the laboratory of Professor Bill Harris at the University of Cambridge. It was in Cambridge where I learned to use the zebrafish retina to study neural development. In the Harris laboratory I explored glial specification and the consequences of glial loss on neuronal function and structure. I then got the amazing opportunity to start my first research group at the University of Sheffield and Bateson Centre as a JG Graves Medical Research Fellow. It was here where I expanded my studies on glial morphogenesis to using the retina as a proxy for the brain to understand degenerative disease mechanisms. We now are looking to expand our studies and expertise in the novel model, the killifish, to understand mechanisms of glial-neuronal molecular dysregulation in the ageing eye.