The lens of the eye functions to form a sharply-focused image on the retina. To do this, it must remain transparent throughout life and flexible enough to allow the eye to accommodate properly. Loss of lens transparency (cataract) is the most common cause of blindness in the world. Age-related lens “stiffening” affects almost everyone over age fifty and results in an inability to focus on near objects (presbyopia).
Our current research concerns the mechanisms regulating lens growth. Unlike many organ systems, the lens must have a precisely defined size and shape if it is to focus light sharply. Using confocal microscopy we have mapped the distribution of proliferating cells within the lens tissue and formulated mathematical models to study the growth process in detail.
The lens is centered on the optical axis by the ciliary zonule, an elaborate system of extracellular fibers. The fibers extend from the inner wall of the eye and attach to the lens at its equator. Using mice deficient in zonule components, we are examining how mechanical forces exerted by the zonular fibers influence the proliferative behavior of the underlying cells and hence the optical performance of the lens.
Our work is funded primarily through grants from the National Eye Institute of the NIH.
We have also received support from National Marfan Foundation, Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), and the European Union.
Some recent publications from the Bassnett Lab
Jones W, Rodriguez J, Bassnett S. Dis Model Mech. 2019 Jan 1; 12(1)
Bassnett S, Šikić H. Prog Retin Eye Res. 2017 60:181-200.
Šikić H, Shi Y, Lubura S, Bassnett S. R Soc Open Sci. 2017 4(1):160695.
De Maria A, Wilmarth PA, David LL, Bassnett S. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2017 58(1):573-585.
Šikić H, Shi Y, Lubura S, Bassnett S. J Theor Biol. 2015 376:15-31.
Mesa R, Tyagi M, Harocopos G, Vollman D, Bassnett S. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016 57(10):4063-75.
Shi Y, Tu Y, Mecham RP, Bassnett S. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013 54(12):7163-73.
Shi Y, De Maria A, Lubura S, Šikić H, Bassnett S. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014 56(2):799-809.
Link to Steven Bassnett’s publications on PubMed