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Eye Research Institute

Dodge Hall
118 Library Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4479
(location map)

Eye Research Institute

Dodge Hall
118 Library Drive
Rochester, Michigan 48309-4479
(location map)

two women wearing white coats, using equipment in a lab


The ERI contains multiple research facilities in its efforts to research the underlying causes and possible cures of many eye diseases. These facilities are available to ERI faculty, staff and student researchers.

Cell and Molecular Biology Support Module

The module provides central facilities and expertise for cell and tissue culture, cryopreservation of cell lines, mycoplasma test monitoring of cell lines, DNA sequencing, guidance for PCR design and DNA construct design, real time PCR for genotyping and gene expression assays (Sybr-green and Taqman chemistries, mouse and human), as well as basic training and use of Bioinformatics tools (stand alone and web based). Management of ChIP-on-Chip (Chromatin Immunoprecipitation on DNA Chip array) project design and delivery is also possible to explore RNA-Polymerase-II binding, Transcription Factor binding, and Epigenomic regulation of human and mouse genes. (26,000 genes)

  • Tissue culture hoods are available for BioSafety Level -2 work (BSL-2).
  • Locations of Mol & Cell Biology services and equipment:
  • Rm 427 (Tissue Culture, slide-based cell counter, Water purification, bench autoclave)
  • Rm 429 (Vacu-fuge, UV-Stratalinker)
  • Rm 430 (Real time PCR: Aria MX & Mx3000 machine, Automated DNA sequencing [iSeq], thermocyclers, biospec)
  • Rm 414 (pre-PCR, Sonication)
User Access and Biosafety Compliance
All users of any part of the module must obtain, read, and sign for a copy of the Module's Standard Operating Procedures for Biosafety. A copy may be obtained from Dr. Kenneth Mitton, and is on the desk just inside Room 427.

Dr. Kenneth Mitton
Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences, and
Director Cell and Molecular Biology support module
412 Dodge Hall of Engineering
(248) 370-2079
Pediatric Retinal Research Laboratory

The ERI launched the Virginia and Clarence Clohset Pediatric Retinal Research
Laboratory (PRRL) in 2011, which is believed to be the only laboratory in the country
devoted solely to pediatric retinal research.  PRRL is managed by Dr. Kenneth Mitton.
Approximately $480,000 in funding for the laboratory was donated by the Pediatric
Retinal Research Foundation,(https://www.pediatricrrf.org/), which is striving to eliminate
blindness and low vision in children from premature birth and retinal disease. PRRF
made its contribution through support from two donor families — the Clohsets and the
Bergquist families — along with a number of individual donors.

The renovated lab in Dodge Hall is also under the clinical leadership of Dr. Michael
Trese of the Beaumont Hospitals and Associated Retinal Consultants, who is a clinical
professor of biomedical sciences with the ERI. Additional ERI clinical professors
associated with the laboratory include Dr. Kimberly Drenser and Dr. Anthony Capone.
Dr. Drenser and Dr. Mitton collaborate and publish research on Norrin and its roles in
retinal vascular development using animal models and vascular cells from human organ-
donated retinas. Patients with Norrie Disease have changes to the gene encoding Norrin
and this causes a lack of blood vessels in an infant’s retinas, causing blindness from an
early age. Norrin is a special growth factor that binds to receptor proteins on retinal
vascular cells. Other patients with a different genetic condition called FEVR (Familial
Exudative Vitreo-Retinopathy) have changes to genes encoding one or more of the
proteins that form the receptor complex for Norrin. These genes are names FZD4
(Frizzled-4), TSPAN12 (Tetra-Spannin-12) and LRP5.

Norrie Disease, FEVR and a third genetic condition called Retinoschisis are relatively
rare blinding conditions affecting young children and adults. Patients with Retinoschisis
have very delicate retinas that suffer tears and layer separations due to changes to the
RS gene, which encodes a glue-like protein called the RS-protein that normally holds the
layers of the retina together. In the United States rare diseases that affect less than
200,000 people are called “orphan” diseases and rare conditions often lack attention for
medical research. Norrie Disease, FEVR and RS affect less than 20,000 Americans.
Fortunately Associate Retinal Consultants, of Michigan, are world-renowned expert
physicians for these rare conditions and the Pediatric Retinal Research Foundation has
included these orphan diseases for targets of their research support. By partnering with
Oakland University, basic science research is contributing to understanding these
conditions and developing therapies.

The PRRL provides support in several ways to the ERI’s medical research mission at
Oakland University.

  • Live retinal imaging and ERG testing for mouse and rat eye research models.
    This includes digital imaging of the retina and fluorescein angiography, which are
    methods used on human eye patients too. The PRRL also has Optical
    Coherence Tomography imaging, a way to see the layers of the living retina,
    painlessly, in a living eye.
  • Cell culture, used for primary retinal vascular cells that are derived from human
    retinas donated to medical research. These cells enable the direct study of the
    affects of growth factors, drugs, and high glucose (diabetes) on cells that form
    the important blood-retinal-barrier of the human eye.
  •  Next Generation Sequencing (NGS), a form of massively parallel DNA
    sequencing to test genes for changes that may cause Norrie Disease, FVER and
    Retinoschisis. In summer 2019 the PRRL/ERI activated the first ongoing DNA
    sequencing research service at Oakland University, which focuses on orphan
    pediatric retinal diseases. Dr. Mitton, Dr. Drenser, and technologist Wendy Dailey
    developed a custom targeted DNA sequencing testing panel using Illumina (CA,
    USA) technology. Dr. Mitton and Wendy Dailey, working in the PRRL, developed
    an 8-gene test panel that sequences the genes with the accuracy required for
    correctly detecting disease-causing changes. Aware of the fact that US health
    insurance does not cover such testing, Dr. Mitton also wanted to develop a
    testing process that brings the cost of sequencing based analysis down from
    several thousands of dollars for one or two genes to about $250 for eight genes.
    The first 39 patient DNA samples were tested in Fall 2019, and another 40
    patient DNA samples are in the process pipeline for testing in February 2020.
    The much lower cost of testing means that donations to PRRF can now support
    this ongoing research service into the future. This also provides the opportunity
    to educate Oakland University science and medical students about modern
    genetic NGS-based analysis.