Our research investigates the molecular features of complex diseases that lead to the death of neural cells. In collaboration with biomedical and electrical engineers, we are developing new microelectronic devices to enhance research and monitor/treat disease. Major goals are to provide new understanding of disease mechanisms and new devices to improve patient care and treatments.

Most of our projects focus on Glaucoma, one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases. Using similar methods, we also study other diseases including Alzheimer's disease. As a part of this, we have a growing interest in the neural control of immune processes and how immunity impacts neurodegeneration. Glaucoma is a major cause of human blindness and is often associated with elevated pressure within the eye itself, called, intraocular pressure (IOP). This harmful high pressure damages retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) resulting in a pressure-induced neurodegeneration. The molecular processes that raise IOP and damage retinal ganglion cells are not well defined.

We study the genetics and genomics of human glaucoma with established international collaborators and with ophthalmologists. To complement these studies with a powerful experimental system, we use mouse models. Combining genetics with genomics, cell/molecular biology and physiology to understand glaucoma, we are identifying new genes, pathways and aberrant processes that lead to high IOP and glaucoma. We are determining how high IOP damages retinal neurons and developing neuroprotection methods to shield RGCs from glaucoma.

We recently demonstrated that vitamin B3 (nicotinamide) potently prevents glaucoma in a mouse model. We have a growing interest in the role of altered metabolism in various neurodegenerations and in IOP elevation and retinal disease. We are working to establish a clinical trail and other studies to further evaluate the efficacy of vitamin B3 and the role of metabolism in human glaucoma.

Training is also an important component of our program with trainees obtaining hands on experience while completing research projects. Our approach is multidisciplinary with projects involving diverse expertise including genetics, genomics, gene expression, molecular biology, pathology, physiology, neurobiology, microscopy, imaging, clinical evaluation, and biomedical and electrical engineering. This provides a fertile training environment with laboratory members progressing to top graduate programs. To date and after completing their training, all of our postdoctoral trainees have obtained faculty or high-level scientific positions. We are actively seeking funding to support various projects and training.

Atlas of Mouse Eye Disease Enter

Glaucoma Discovery Platform Database Enter