Kristen M. Kwan, Ph.D.

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The eye is a critical sensory organ, and malformations of the eye, due to defective development, commonly account for serious visual impairment in newborns. My laboratory uses the zebrafish (Danio rerio) as a model for eye development. Because the process is conserved among all vertebrates, understanding the mechanisms underlying zebrafish eye formation is likely to improve our understanding of the processes underlying human eye development. Although genetic studies have identified many genes involved in eye development, we still have surprisingly poor understanding of its morphogenesis, the process by which the organ achieves proper cellular organization and shape. Our research, using live imaging and zebrafish molecular genetics and cell biology, aims to understand how a simple mass of cells becomes organized into the properly formed and patterned optic cup.