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Biography

Steven Bassnett, PhD

Bassnett@vision.wustl.edu

Professor, Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
Professor, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology

The lens 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 'stiffening'; of the lens affects almost everyone over age 50 and results in an inability to focus on near objects (presbyopia). Studies in my laboratory are aimed at understanding the cellular basis of transparency and accommodation. One current project concerns the developmental processes that enable lens transparency. A particularly interesting feature of lens development is the programmed elimination of cytoplasmic organelles from cells in the light path. We are investigating the events that trigger organelle loss and the molecular mechanisms that underlie this process. The cell and molecular basis of accommodation is not well understood. We recently identified novel elements of the lens cytoskeleton that may play a role in this process. To test this hypothesis, we have developed a number of approaches that take advantage of the transparent properties of the lens. For example, we use confocal microscopy to visualize the distribution of exogenous fluorescent proteins expressed in single cells of the living lens. We are combining cell biological approaches such as these with the classical techniques of physiological optics to provide a more complete understanding of the cellular mechanisms that operate during accommodation.

Education

  • BSc, Marine Biology, School of Animal Sciences University College of North Wales, Bangor, UK, 1982
  • PhD, Biophysics, School of Biological Sciences University of East Anglia (UEA), UK, 1987

Training

  • Research Assistant Professor, Anatomy and Cell Biology, Uniformed Services University, Besthesda, MD, 1990-1995
  • Assistant Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO, 1995-2001
  • Associate Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO, 2001- 2007
  • Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences, Cell Biology and Physiology, Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO, 2007-present
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