Debra Thompson, Ph.D.

Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
Professor, Biological Chemistry

7313 Brehm, Kellogg Eye Center

1000 Wall Street

Ann Arbor, MI  48105 

 

(734) 936-9504

Areas of Interest

Our research focuses on studies of the molecular mechanisms responsible for inherited forms of retinal degeneration causing devastating loss of vision in affected individuals. Our efforts have contributed to the identification of disease genes whose mutations result in early and severe forms of retinal degeneration. Normally these genes are expressed in the retina and retinal pigment epithelium, and encode proteins necessary for the function and survival of the light absorbing rod and cone photoreceptor cells. Disease-associated mutations disrupt cellular processes including the metabolism of vitamin A needed to produce the light-absorbing chromophore 11-cis retinal, the phagocytic uptake of membrane debris from the subretinal space, and the structure and lipid composition of the photoreceptor cells. Our ongoing research focuses on analysis of the normal function and pathogenic mechanisms associated with these genetic defects, in studies involving biochemical assays of protein function and enzyme activity in vitro, and phenotypic characterization of mouse and rat models corresponding to human forms of disease. We are using this information to develop novel strategies for therapeutic intervention that we are testing in preclinical trials.

Honors & Awards

2014       Elizabeth Anderson Award for Macular Degeneration Research, BrightFocus Foundation
2010       Fellow, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology
2009       Senior Scientific Investigator Award, Research to Prevent Blindness 
2008       Senior Scientific Investigator Award, Research to Prevent Blindness
2005       Elizabeth Caroline Crosby Research Award, NSF ADVANCE Project
1999       Lew R. Wasserman Merit Award, Research to Prevent Blindness 
1995       Rackham Partnership Program Award, Sponsor, University of Michigan
1995       Career Development Fund for Women Faculty Award, University of Michigan 

Published Articles or Reviews

Recent Publications

Shifting the balance of autophagy and proteasome activation reduces proteotoxic cell death: a novel therapeutic approach for restoring photoreceptor homeostasis.
Qiu Y, Yao J, Jia L, Thompson DA, Zacks DN.
Cell Death Dis. 2019; 10: 547.

Development of a gene-therapy vector for RDH12-associated retinal dystrophy.
Feathers KL, Jia L, Perera ND, Chen A, Presswalla FK, Khan NW, Fahim AT, Smith AJ, Ali RR, Thompson DA.
Hum Gene Ther. 2019; in press.

Detailed clinical characterisation, unique features and natural history of autosomal recessive RDH12-associated retinal degeneration.
Fahim AT, Bouzia Z, Branham KH, Kumaran N, Vargas ME, Feathers KL, Perera ND, Young K, Khan NW, Heckenlively JR, Webster AR, Pennesi ME, Ali RR, Thompson DA, Michaelides M.
Br J Ophthalmol. 2019; in press.

A platform for assessing outer segment fate in primary human fetal RPE cultures.
Zhang Q, Presswalla F, Feathers K, Cao X, Hughes BA, Zacks DN, Thompson DA, Miller JML.
Exp Eye Res. 2019; 178: 212-22.

Inhibiting autophagy reduces retinal degeneration caused by protein misfolding.
Yao J, Qiu Y, Frontera E, Jia L, Khan NW, Klionsky DJ, Ferguson TA, Thompson DA, Zacks DN.
Autophagy. 2018; 14: 1226-38.

Interphotoreceptor retinoid-binding protein removes all-trans-retinol and retinal from rod outer segments, preventing lipofuscin precursor formation.
Chen C, Adler L 4th, Goletz P, Gonzalez-Fernandez F, Thompson DA, Koutalos Y.
J Biol Chem. 2017; 292: 19356-65.

MERTK signaling in the retinal pigment epithelium regulates the tyrosine phosphorylation of GDP dissociation inhibitor alpha from the GDI/CHM family of RAB GTPase effectors.
Shelby SJ, Feathers KL, Ganios AM, Jia L, Miller JM, Thompson DA.
Exp Eye Res. 2015; 140: 28-40.

For a list of publications from MyNCBI, click HERE