5/9/24: Miller lab presents at ARVO

John presented his initial work on manipulating lipid droplet formation in the RPE to better understand the role of lipid droplets in AMD-relevant processes. Kaitlyn is starting to understand the fundamental mechanisms of apoE regulation and trafficking in the RPE (amazingly, this hasn't really been explored in the RPE, despite the ubiquity of this apolipoprotein in drusen and subretinal drusenoid deposits). Jason presented our initial experience with Resipher, a device that allows us to measure mitochondrial health via continuous oxygen consumption rate readings while cells are in a regular incubator on standard cell culture plates in standard media, all over a period of days to weeks and all while RPE is well polarized and differentiated.

4/8/24: Simultaneous great lab news

Kaitlyn passes her qualifying exam with flying colors.

John is awarded a BrightFocus post-doctoral fellowship award.

Kaitlyn was required to propose a project completely outside of her dissertation work and did so with skill and ease (even if there was stress along the way).

John's proposal to BrightFocus will help elucidate lipid droplet biology in the RPE and how manipulating lipid droplets may be a target for AMD. We are thankful for this support from BrightFocus!

At ARVO, John received an award from BrightFocus for his proposal, and he proceeded to carry the award around with him during all aspects of ARVO, with Kaitlyn assembling the following amazing powerpoint. Needless to say, John is excited about the award.

2/18/24: Eversight (EyeBank) grant to study RPE lipoprotein particles

We are thankful to Eversight for a grant to study RPE lipoprotein secretion. We think better understanding what the RPE secretes will provide insight into how to prevent the pathologic drusen and reticular pseudodrusen deposits that occur in AMD.

2/4/24: Kaitlyn gets Rackham graduate school grant

For her thesis work on apolipoprotein E (apoE) trafficking in the RPE, Kaitlyn Digsby has received a grant from the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. Congrats to Kaitlyn! Now, onwards and hopefully mostly upwards with her preliminary exam.

12/16/23: EMZ Foundation grant to study RPE lipid secretion

We received the terrific news that the E. Matilda Ziegler Foundation has funded us to study how the RPE secretes lipids. We and others think that the toxic lipid-rich extracellular deposits that accumulate in AMD, termed drusen and retciular pseudodrusen, come partly from secretion of lipids from the RPE in the form of lipoprotein particles. With this grant, we will better understand how the RPE secretes these particles and gain insight into pathways that may decrease the RPE's contribution to  drusen and reticular pseudodrusen formation.

11/5/23: Publication from Hurley-Miller lab collaboration

Dan Hass in the Hurley lab and a crew in the Miller lab are working on conditions that promote mitochondrial metabolism in culture RPE, as mitochondrially-mediated lipid degradation is thought to play a major role in RPE health and dysfunction in AMD. It turns out many unappreciated cell culture parameters affect RPE mitochondrial capacity. Here, we explore how commonly used media volumes in RPE culture produce oxygen limiting conditions, activating hypoxia signaling and diminishing mitochondrial activity, all while RPE appear outwardly normal. Studies on RPE cultures, especially those exploring metabolism or lipid handling, need to pay attention to media volumes. 

  9/19/23: And John gets travel award to Harvard Symposium on AMD Meeting!

The good news keeps coming in for John. He received a travel award to attend the 6th Biennial International Symposium on AMD at Harvard next week. John is currently breathing into a paper bag to calm himself from all the good news.


9/18/23: John accepted into highly selective Michigan Pioneer Fellowship program!

The program provides financial and mentoring support to "highly motivated and accomplished post-doctoral fellows bound for research-intensive careers." The program includes a formal mentoring committee that includes his dud-of-a-PI Jason as well as two other leading scientists in our field, combined with grant-writing workshops, training on lab management and oral presentations, guidance on applying for jobs, and monthly career development meetings with the program's Program Directors, including Yatrik Shah, Carole Parent, and Wenjing Wang. What an honor for John! At left, you will see his re-enacted reaction when he read the news while changing media (please note, we do not condone breaking sterility during our finicky cell culturing for such activities normally, but we have made an exception in this case). Details of the program announcement are here.

8/12/23: Kaitlyn, John, and Qitao organize weekly writing session

I thought this idea was brilliant and I definitely did not come up with it. John, Qitao, and Kaitlyn all have significant writing they have to do, and they organized it as a more social session on Fridays.

8/6/23: Lab get together - rain cancels kayaking, so we just ate stuffed ourselves and stayed inside

Grillmaster Aaron denDekker brought his skills to the Miller house, and Kaitlyn and Gillian brought delicious sides. While Qitao decided to fatten us up with not one but two cakes and John brought the fruit. Board games were fine for the adults, while Qitao got bored and did darts with the kids. It's trite to say, but very thankful for this group of curious, caring, and collaborative set of colleagues.

6/5/23: Kaitlyn Digsby receives an offer for the competitive Pharmaceutical Sciences Training Program

Building on her success in writing proposals as an undergraduate researcher, the lab's first graduate student, Kaitlyn Digsby, put together an application for the Pharmaceutical Sciences Training Program, a joint training program between Pharmacology, Biological Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Medicinal Chemistry. She found out today that she was offered a training slot! This program allows her to build on her interests in disease modeling and drug development.

5/24/23: John Han offically walks for graduation ceremony

He's now well into being in the Miller lab, but John Han frequented his old digs at Thomas Jefferson, where he was in Nancy Philp's lab, for graduation weekend. He even made it into the university's instagram feed. Congrats John on becoming a true post-doc, where you make the big bucks and have the easy life (ha ha). 

4/25/23: Lab members present at ARVO

Gillian presents on detecting ketone bodies in RPE cultures, Aaron presents on comparing macular and peripheral RPE gene expression profiles, John presents his graduate work data, and Fares presents results on ABCA1 regulation of apoE secretion from his summer rotation. Meanwhile, Kaitlyn and Qitao hold an ARVO at Michigan lunch retreat.

3/9/23: Qitao Zhang promoted

After a long journey that included lots of twists and turns, as well as job offers from academia and industry in China, we are thrilled that Qitao Zhang has decided to stay at Kellogg. He will lead the RPE Culture Facility as part of the Grosfeld Initiative. He has also been promoted to faculty as a Research Investigator. A huge congrats to Qitao!

12/15/22: More Dimo's donuts to celebrate Bonje's last day 

Bonje Obua rotated with us in fall 2022 and worked on the role of hypoxia in determining the polarity of apoE secretion. We celebrated her end-of-rotation presentation with the new emerging lab tradition of Dimo's donuts.

9/7/22: Just some beautiful RPE EMT pics 

As part of collaboration with Wubben lab, we are studying RPE epithelial-mesenchymal transitions, which can be induced by wounding the RPE (central dark area, left) and then staining for EMT markers alpha-smooth muscle actin (red) and vimentin (yellow). Credit to Gillian Autterson for the pics.

8/22/22: John Han will join as a postdoc in early 2023 

John Han, currently a senior graduate student in Nancy Philp's lab at Thomas Jefferson University, will be joining the lab as a postdoctoral fellow in early 2023. John has extensive in vivo experience with retinal metabolism, specifically the function of glucose and lactate transporters in outer retinal function. Besides his brains, he's also a really great person. We're excited to welcome him to A2!

7/27/22: Dimo's donuts to celebrate Fares' last day

Celebrating Fares' rotation with what are, in this PI's opinion, the best donuts in Ann Arbor: Dimo's. The smiles undercut just how full of donuts we are.

7/19/22: Gillian Autterson promoted

A year after joining the Miller lab as a Research Technician, Gillian has more than proved her chops. Her talent is only matched by an organizational capacity that boggles the minds of us less-advantaged mortals. She is now Research Specialist Associate. Congrats Gillian!

6/20/22: Fares receives Sigma Xi fellowship

Writing his first grant ever, Fares received a Sigma Xi fellowship for his summer rotation project. He is exploring the role of ABCA1 on influencing whether apoE secretion from the RPE occurs apically (which would promote reticular pseudodrusen (RPD) formation) or basolaterally (which would promote drusen formation). Batting 100% for grants is more than his PI can say.

6/6/22: Fares Refai joins lab for summer

Fares is a first year medical student at University of Oklahoma who wants to combine clinical practice with bench research. He will be working on mechanisms that determine whether the RPE's major secreted apolipoprotein, apoE, is secreted apically or basolaterally, which has implications for formation of drusen vs. reticular pseudodrusen.