Fovea Development Laboratory

Principal Investigator

Susana da Silva, PhD
Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Developmental Biology
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine


Lab Personnel

Aliah Adams, Research Technician
John Iannotta, Research Technician
Irona Khandaker, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate
Vicente Valle, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate


Research Interests

The research in Dr. da Silva’s laboratory is centered on a small highly specialized area of the retina named the fovea. The fovea is our high acuity area and is responsible for our ability to perform tasks such as reading, driving and recognizing faces. This area is very distinct from the rest of the retina presenting unique and specialized cellular and functional properties. Trained as a neurodevelopmental biologist Dr. da Silva is very interested in deciphering the molecular developmental mechanisms orchestrating the formation of such specialization in the retina. To achieve this Dr. da Silva’s laboratory uses a multidisciplinary research program based in multiple model organisms, combining state-of-the-art genomic, molecular, and tissue culture techniques. The overarching goal of Dr. da Silva’s research is to advance the current understanding of basic genetic and molecular mechanisms underlying fovea development and subsequently establish new experimental models of human foveal diseases with wide applicability and therapeutic potential. Some of the specific goals of Dr. da Silva’s lab are:

  • Elucidate genes and signaling pathways patterning the early high acuity area using chick retina as an attainable model system
  • Comparative multispecies studies by gene expression analysis of the foveal-genes and molecular pathways (evo-devo approach)
  • Establish a new in vitro model system of human induced-pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs)-derived 3D foveated retinal organoids
  • Modeling of foveal diseases conditions in 3D foveated retinal organoids.