Heather West Greenlee

Associate Professor
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Email: mheather@iastate.edu

Role in the ISU ADVANCE Program
Heather West Greenlee is the Equity Advisor for the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Research Interests

My group collaborates with scientists at the National Animal Disease Center and Iowa State University to study retinal pathology as a way to understand nervous system injury and degeneration.  

Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies:  Over the past decade, my group has described specific retinal changes that accompany infection with transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (scrapie in sheep and goats, chronic wasting disease in cervids, and bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle).  Notably, detectable retinal changes are a reliable predictor of BSE infection up to 11 months prior to the onset of clinical signs of disease in cattle.

The retina to study pathogenesis of transmissible spongiform encephalopathies:  The spatial separation of the retina from the rest of the nervous system facilitates the temporal separation of pathologic changes observed as misfolded prion spreads.  Using a mouse model of scrapie infection, we recently reported the sequence of cellular events from arrival of misfolded prion protein to neuronal cell death.  This understanding will help to design therapies to target different stages of disease and to evaluate their efficacy.

The retina to diagnose concussive blast wave injury:  In collaboration with Drs. Anumantha Kanthasamy and Don Sakaguchi’s labs we have described the effects of blast wave exposure on the retina, and how these retinal changes compare to observed changes in the rest of the central nervous system.  Importantly, one of the morphological changes we report in this mouse model may explain the common complaint by returning combat veterans of loss of visual contrast sensitivity.