Navigation Links
UCSC physicist Alexander Sher named Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences

SANTA CRUZ, CA--The Pew Charitable Trusts has named Alexander Sher, assistant professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz, a Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. Sher will receive a $240,000 award over four years to support his research on how the retina heals itself after laser surgery.

Sher applies his background in physics to challenging problems in neurobiology, using custom-designed arrays of microscopic electrodes to probe the simultaneous activity of large numbers of neurons. This system, which he helped develop at the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP) at UC Santa Cruz, has been used in a number of studies, most recently in the development of a new type of retinal prosthesis for restoring sight to the blind and in fundamental research on the neurological basis of color vision.

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, identifies and invests in talented researchers in medicine or biomedical sciences. By backing them early in their careers, the program enables promising scientists to take calculated risks and follow unanticipated leads to advance human health. Sher is among 22 innovative young researchers chosen this year from the 134 candidates nominated by invited institutions. He is the fourth UCSC faculty member to receive this prestigious award.

Sher began his career studying high-energy particle physics. As a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Cruz, working with physicist Alan Litke at SCIPP, he began studying neural networks in the retina. Sher now heads his own research program investigating retinal function and development. The new project funded by his Pew Scholarship will explore how the retina responds to laser photocoagulation. This type of surgery is used to treat a variety of visual disorders, including diabetic retinopathy.

Laser photocoagulation can stave off blindness by intentionally reducing metabolic load in the retina through destruction of a portion of retinal neurons. Unfortunately, this long-established treatment can lead to retinal scarring and side effects such as diminished visual clarity and loss of peripheral vision. Researchers have found that treating the eye with shorter pulses of laser light leads to destruction of photoreceptor cells but leaves the processing and output retinal layers intact. The light-sensitive photoreceptors from adjacent areas then shift to fill in the regions in which these cells were destroyed. The process reduces the number of photoreceptors (the treatment's goal), but avoids retinal scarring that might follow more intense conventional laser burns. Sher has determined that the migrating photoreceptors are able to establish functional connections with retinal neurons that had previously been connected to the destroyed photoreceptors.

"We showed that healthy photoreceptors move in and connect to the orphaned inner-retinal neurons. This constructive neuroplasticity is not only exciting on a basic science level, it also has implications for treatment," Sher said.

Using the novel electrode recording system he helped develop, Sher plans to monitor the simultaneous activity of hundreds of neurons in laser-treated retinal tissue to determine whether the restored circuits are fully functional and able to engage in various forms of visual processing, such as detecting spatial patterns and color. This work could lead to deeper understanding of retinal plasticity and improvements in the treatment of a variety of retinal diseases.

Sher is also involved in the development of a new type of retinal prosthesis designed to restore sight to people with diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration, which cause blindness due to degenerated photoreceptors. In his lab at UCSC, Sher demonstrated the feasibility of the new prosthesis design, which relies on photovoltaic retinal stimulation and was developed by his collaborators at Stanford University. These results were published May 13 in Nature Photonics.

In another recent paper, published May 27 in Nature Neuroscience, Sher presented new findings on color vision. This paper shows that color vision in the retinas of mammals relies on unconventional neural circuitry to discriminate between blue and green colors. This research required reliable observations of an elusive retinal pathway that responds to decreases in the amount of blue light--observations made possible by Sher's multielectrode recording techniques.


Contact: Tim Stephens
University of California - Santa Cruz

Related medicine news :

1. Dr. William Oh named 2012 Legend of Neonatology
2. Edith Mitchell, M.D., FACP, named 2012 recipient of ASCO Humanitarian Award
3. First recipients of AcademyHealths Presidential Scholarship announced
4. Biomedical researchers receive Hartwell Foundation awards
5. UT MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho elected to National Academy of Sciences
6. Ivy Neurological Sciences Internship program funded at TGen
7. Hutchinson Center president elected to American Academy of Art and Sciences
8. Washingtons Life Sciences Discovery Fund awards commercialization grants
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/13/2017)... ... October 13, 2017 , ... “America On The Brink”: ... “America On The Brink” is the creation of published author, William Nowers. ... As a WWII veteran, he spent thirty years in the Navy. Following ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... are now treating sleep apnea using cutting-edge Oventus O2Vent technology. As ... serious sleep disorder characterized by frequent cessation in breathing. Oral appliances can offer ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... the demand of today’s consumer and regulatory authorities worldwide. From Children’s to Adults ... tested to meet the highest standard. , These products are also: Gluten ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... ... October 12, 2017 , ... The American College of Medical Informatics (ACMI) will ... during the Opening Session of AMIA’s Annual Symposium in Washington, D.C. AMIA’s Annual ... F. Collen, a pioneer in the field of medical informatics, this prestigious award is ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... delivery system that we intend to develop to enable prevention of a major ... to severe hearing loss, especially in pediatric patients. For cisplatin, hearing loss is ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:9/18/2017)... , Pa. and KALAMAZOO, Mich. , Sept. ... Penn. , and OptiMed Specialty Pharmacy of ... partnership to offer a strategic hub service that expedites ... highly sought-after personal spirometer, Spiro PD 2.0, and wellness ... A spirometer is a medical device used to measure ...
(Date:9/12/2017)... 12, 2017   EcoVadis , the leading platform for environmental, social ... annual edition of its Global CSR Risk and Performance Index. The report ... based on Scorecard Ratings that analyzed nearly 800,000 data points across the ... ... ...
(Date:9/9/2017)... ... DC ... th – Monday, September 18 th .The Brain Tumor Foundation (BTF) ... to the public.Where:  BTF,s Mobile MRI Unit – ... NW, Washington, D.C.What:BTF brings its nationwide initiative, the Road to Early Detection ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: