Yoshimatsu's Group

Yoshimatsu Group
Searching for Nigerian-origin model animals for vision research

Vision is one of the most essential sensory systems for human, occupying one of the largest volume of the brain and the damage to the visual system devastates the quality of life. To develop effective treatments for visual diseases, it is essential to use an animal model for dissecting the mechanisms underlying the disease pathology and testing new therapeutic targets. However, the majority of the research is conducted in only one species, mice, and experimental results in this nocturnal species may not represent disease conditions in the human eye. Most critically, mice lack foveal-specialization, the central area of the retina that is the basis of our rich detailed vision.
To overcome this challenge, we aim to discover new model animals that are better suited for human-like vision. In this project, we will focus on lizards. Our preliminary experiments found that one of the common lizard in the area, Agama, possess highly developed foveal specializations. To establish this species as a model system for eye research, we will uncover the commonalities and the differences between Agama and human by achieving the following aims:

Identify the photoreceptor composition.
We will use gene expression profiling and in situ hybridization to determine the type of photoreceptors in the Agama eye and examine the differences in their distribution patterns across the eye.

Determine the neural circuit specializations in the fovea
Neural circuits in the human fovea are highly specialized. However, whether this is a common feature across species is less known.

Examine the metabolic supply network in the fovea
We will investigate the specializations in the vasculature formation in the fovea. Since abnormal vasculature genesis is the main cause of the foveal diseases in human, the characterization of the vasculature structure will be a fundamental knowledge for using this species as a model system.

Together, our work will establish Agama as a new model organism for eye research and pave the way for novel research opportunities in Nigeria.



  • Takeshi Yoshimatsu (Group Leader)
  • Kundi Umar (Research Assistant)
  • Muhammad Mustapha (Technician)