Lin Gan, Ph.D.
Neuroscience and Regenerative Medicine
Lin Gan is an accomplished neuroscientist whose work illuminates the mechanisms underlying vision and hearing, and his findings may lead to new treatments for both.
Gan’s research is dedicated to essential questions about eyes and ears. At a fundamental level, eyes and ears have such unique properties – the ability to see, or hear – because they contain cells with unique properties. To create these cells, the body follows programming determined by a complex genetic code. By defining these genetic pathways, Gan is making it easier to understand how a cell can “see” or “hear.”
His findings are deepening understanding of conditions like blindness and deafness, as well as diseases like glaucoma, in which retinal ganglion cells deteriorate and die. These cells are a kind of neurons that connect the retina to the brain, creating vision.
Gan’s team is known for discovering a key genetic pathway that helps generate retinal ganglion cells. With this knowledge, scientists are working to “reprogram” blank, undifferentiated stem cells into retinal ganglion cells, opening up a treatment for glaucoma and other types of vision loss.
Gan’s team also identified the genes responsible for creating the sensitive, hair-like cells of the inner ear that detect the vibrations caused by sound waves and translate them into electrical signals the brain can understand. A hair cell can execute this specialized function by following a set of instructions encoded in its genes. Again, Gan’s work identifying those genes could help clinical researchers develop stem cell treatments to build new inner hair cells and restore lost hearing.
Gan’s breakthroughs have been driven by his expertise in mouse genetics and CRISPR, a technology for editing gene sequences. His extensive knowledge of mouse genetics allows him to identify analogous genes between mice and humans; his skill with CRISPR lets him edit these genes in mice to study them more effectively.
Because of Gan’s mastery of these approaches, he frequently aids fellow researchers in many fields, not just hearing and vision. He and his long-time colleague, Joseph Miano, create mouse models to help other research teams study a variety of diseases.
Recently, Gan collaborated with clinical researchers to develop mouse models to study SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. Normally, mice cannot become infected with SARS-CoV-2, but Gan’s genetically modified mouse can. So scientists can use these mice to explore potential treatments or vaccines.
- Transcriptional cascade in the development and maintenance of retinal ganglion cells
- Transcriptional control of neuronal subtype and circuitry formation in the retina
- Transcriptional regulation in the development of sensory organs in the inner ear
- Therapies for blindness and deafness using regenerative medicine
Straight from the Scholar
“Augusta University has a very strong vision research group, with a lot of expertise. I can benefit a lot from collaboration from them. And a lot of the researchers here are interested in using CRISPR for their work. We’ll definitely be doing a lot of new collaborations, particularly in the field of eye disease.”