James G. Patton, Ph.D.
Stevenson Professor of Biological Sciences
Director, Honors Program in Biological Sciences Director, MS Program in the Biomedical Sciences
I am an RNA Biologist with current research focusing on two different projects. The first challenges traditional beliefs about cell-autonomous RNA and is exploring a novel cell-cell communication system via extracellular RNA. We have discovered that RNAs can be packaged into extracellular vesicles which are then capable of being transferred from donor to recipient cells. Our focus is to understand the mechanisms governing which RNAs get packaged into extracellular vesicles and how those vesicles move between cells to affect things like the tumor microenvironment, drug resistance, and metastasis. We are using a colorectal cancer model for these studies and seek to quantitatively determine how RNA transfer can affect gene expression in recipient cells. The second project studies retina regeneration using zebrafish as a model system. Zebrafish are remarkably capable of spontaneous retina regeneration through the action of a resident stem cell, Müller glia. Human retinas also contain Müller glia but are not capable of spontaneous retina regeneration, we seek to understand why this is. Our initial experiments focused on the role of microRNAs, but have now expanded to understand how neurotransmitter signaling, inflammation, and senescence regulate retina regeneration from initiation to termination.