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Prof Christiana Ruhrberg
UCL Institute of Ophthalmology
11-43 Bath Street
London
EC1V 9EL
Appointment
  • Professor of Neuronal and Vascular Biology
  • Inst Ophthalmology - Cell Biology
  • Institute of Ophthalmology
  • Faculty of Brain Sciences
 
 
Research Summary
Vascular dysfunction and neovascularisation contribute to many diseases. For example, vision loss in two common eye diseases, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. Accordingly, the study of vascular growth is of enormous clinical significance. Both physiological and pathological vascularisation have been studied extensively, and much of this work has highlighted the critical role of the vascular growth factor VEGF and its receptors.

We have previously shown that VEGF isoforms control vascular patterning through their differential distribution in the extracellular matrix. This mechanism ensures that a well-connected vascular network forms in the brain and retina. We are presently examining the role of the extracellular matrix in VEGF isoform distribution and the role of isoform-specific VEGF receptors with the aim of identifying specific mechanisms that may be targeted by therapeutic intervention in neovascular eye disease. We also want to understand how growing blood vessels integrate into the developing brain and retina without disrupting the organisation and function of neurons and glia, and how microglia and macrophages modulate vascular growth. This knowledge will help us to develop clinical strategies aimed at repairing the vascular supply to ischemic eyes.

To learn more about the cross talk of growing vessels with neurons, we are studying signalling pathways implicated in neuronal and vascular growth and patterning. One such candidate signalling pathway uses the transmembrane protein neuropilin 1 (NRP1), a cell surface receptor for two different types of secreted glycoproteins: an isoform of VEGF termed VEGF164 and the repulsive guidance cue SEMA3A. To understand NRP1 function, we are identifying roles for these NRP1 ligands in both blood vessels and nerves. For example, we have shown that VEGF164/NRP1 signalling controls motor neuron migration in the brain stem and retinal axon guidance at the optic chiasm. Moreover, we have found that SEMA3A/NRP1 controls cranial neural crest migration and thereby patterns the peripheral nervous system. Other current projects focus on the development of the sympathetic nervous system and Schwann cell glia.

Appointments
01-OCT-2011 Professor UCL Institute of Ophthalmology University College London, United Kingdom
01-AUG-2008 Reader UCL Institute of Ophthalmology University College London, United Kingdom
01-AUG-2007 Lecturer UCL Institute of Ophthalmology University College London, United Kingdom
Academic Background
1997 PhD Doctor of Philosophy Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
1992 Dipl. Diplom Justus-Liebig-Universitat Giessen
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