Rediscovering the chick embryo as a model to study retinal development
Wilmer Eye Institute, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Smith Building 3023, 400 N Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21287-9257, USA
Neural Development 2012, 7:22 doi:10.1186/1749-8104-7-22Published: 27 June 2012
The embryonic chick occupies a privileged place among animal models used in developmental studies. Its rapid development and accessibility for visualization and experimental manipulation are just some of the characteristics that have made it a vertebrate model of choice for more than two millennia. Until a few years ago, the inability to perform genetic manipulations constituted a major drawback of this system. However, the completion of the chicken genome project and the development of techniques to manipulate gene expression have allowed this classic animal model to enter the molecular age. Such techniques, combined with the embryological manipulations that this system is well known for, provide a unique toolkit to study the genetic basis of neural development. A major advantage of these approaches is that they permit targeted gene misexpression with extremely high spatiotemporal resolution and over a large range of developmental stages, allowing functional analysis at a level, speed and ease that is difficult to achieve in other systems. This article provides a general overview of the chick as a developmental model focusing more specifically on its application to the study of eye development. Special emphasis is given to the state of the art of the techniques that have made gene gain- and loss-of-function studies in this model a reality. In addition, we discuss some methodological considerations derived from our own experience that we believe will be beneficial to researchers working with this system.