Equity Fellowship supports bold research vision

An emerging researcher who discovered a new class of cell which could provide clues for future glaucoma treatments is CERA’s first Equity Fellow for Excellence in Vision Research.


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CERA’s first Equity Fellow for Excellence in Vision Research, Dr Anna Wang, will establish an innovative research program to discover new eye cells and understand how they work.

The emerging scientist has joined CERA from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked in the lab of Assistant Professor Teresa Puthessery, leading projects investigating retinal ganglion cells which carry visual information from the eye to the brain.

In 2023, Dr Wang was first author of research published in the prestigious journal Nature, that for the first time demonstrated a specific type of retinal ganglion cell was present in primates, including humans.

The cells, called ON-type direction-selective ganglion cells, play a key role in helping sight stay clear and stable when eyes move to follow movement such as looking out of the window of a moving train.

Her research used a two-photon microscope – a device that can capture high-resolution images of living eye tissue.

“We’re able to see how living cells respond to changes in the environment, which tells us a lot more about the cells than if they were static,” says Dr Wang.

Dr Wang aims to develop the same technique that she used to identify ON-type direction-selective ganglion cells in her lab at CERA to discover more new cells and learn how they change in eye disease.

“This technique lets us ask all kinds of questions – what kind of effect does this treatment have on cells in the retina? How do these cells respond to blue light?” says Dr Wang.

“We can test new treatments for diseases much more easily than going to a clinical trial.”

Understanding glaucoma

Vision loss occurs in people in glaucoma when the retinal ganglion cells, which make up the optic nerve, are damaged or die.

Managing Director Professor Keith Martin says Dr Wang’s research focus brings a new dimension to CERA’s glaucoma program.

“Dr Wang has discovered a completely new class of retinal ganglion cell that respond to the direction of movement of objects in our visual world,’’ says Professor Martin.

“It is currently completely unknown how these cells are affected by glaucoma and therefore Anna’s current work is both ground-breaking and exciting.

“Identifying new retinal ganglion cells, understanding how they work and what damages their function is a critical first step in developing new methods of diagnosing glaucoma earlier and formulating new treatments.’’

Equity Fellow

CERA’s new Equity Fellowship for Excellence in Vision Research aims to encourage and develop the career of a researcher with high potential for future leadership in eye research.

The CERA Foundation has provided funding to establish the fellowship with a view to seeking further philanthropic funding in the future.

The Equity Fellowship aims to tackle the barriers across the medical research sector which impede the career development of women and other underrepresented groups from early career to more senior levels.

“The three-year fellowship will provide Anna with momentum and continuity to establish her research program so that she can be competitive in external funding schemes,’’ says Professor Guymer.

“The Fellowship also ensures that CERA can continue to attract the best researchers and deliver world-leading research.’’

Dr Wang says she has been inspired by the many people who have supported her throughout her career.

“I’ve had brilliant, supportive supervisors and mentors – I’m grateful for their support because it can be scary to think about the things that can affect your career like parenthood.

“This fellowship is a great initiative, and I’m very grateful to everyone who has made it possible.”

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