Researcher Profile: Dr. Zhou at Washington University in St. Louis

As The Clayco Foundation continues to propel RVCL research and patient-focused efforts, we want to take a second and highlight a very exciting research project spearheaded by Dr. Zhou at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Zhou is a distinguished professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and has numerous publications, grants, and editorial positions to his name. He is a phenomenal addition to our research team fighting to propel RVCL research into the next age.

Dr. Zhou’s research often revolves around understanding disorders that alter eye structure and function, and he is an expert in using the fruit fly as a specimen that is genetically modified for study. Since RVCL is a genetic disorder that ultimately causes optical issues, Dr. Zhou can and will bring a unique perspective to the problems at hand.

One of the major issues in the study of RVCL is the lack of useable and manipulatable models, a critical tool in any major research project. This is an academic gap that this project will address. An innovative and efficient RVCL disease model based on Drosophila Melanogaster (a.k.a. fruit fly) is being developed by Dr. Zhou’s lab and will provide an arena in which multiple TREX1 (RVCL-causing) mutations can quickly be analyzed and tested. Excitingly, the first run of genetic manipulation of TREX1 in these flies has already altered health and survival outcomes, which means we are on track to develop a usable and representative RVCL model that will accelerate the study.

These fly models are suitable for the advanced research of the RVCL disease throughout the fly lifecycle and will provide a valuable toolbox for genetic screening of drug targets to combat the RVCL disease. We are anxiously awaiting further results in development and looking forward to the ability to quickly screen multiple drugs that may prove beneficial to RVCL patients.

Keep it up, Dr. Zhou!