The Kumar Lab, led by Dr. Justin Kumar in the Department of Biology, has received a grant from the National Eye Institute totaling $1.5 million to continue their work using the fly eye to model diseases of the human retina. Drosophila melanogaster, or the common fruit fly, has been used for over 100 years to study the development and physiology of diseases.
Grant for fly research
IU Biology’s own Professor Charles Zeleny was one of the earliest researchers to use Drosophila, between 1904 and 1909. Dr. Kumar and his lab are following in the footsteps of researchers like Zeleny and use this species to help reveal the complexities of development.
The Kumar lab will use this research grant to understand the process of “induction,” the process by which one tissue can signal to and influence another. In human tissue, inductive queues ensure proper specification and development of tissue that make up the retina. Malfunctioning of these signals can lead to retinal disorders. Kumar will focus on the Drosophila eye-antennal disc, which creates the compound eye of the fruit fly, as the experimental system for studying induction during retinal development.
Kumar and his lab are asking questions that are at the heart of understanding how retina development is induced by neighboring tissue. The overarching goal of these studies is to find more parallels between insect and human eye development.
Story by Devyn Blandford