Cornea, Ocular Surface & Ocular Immunology

Cornea, Ocular Surface & Ocular Immunology

Improve understanding of and treatments for common disorders of the eye and ocular surface involving immune system reactions that greatly affect people’s quality of life.

The immune system is critical to life. Immunological processes are key to fighting pathogens and malignancies, but are also essential to maintaining tissue health and allowing accurate functioning of tissues and organs, including the eye.

Besides the many blinding eye diseases that have an immune or inflammatory basis – such as uveitis and keratitis – whose pathogenesis is largely unknown, there is increasing awareness that some of the most common blinding diseases in developed countries – age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and diabetic retinopathy – have a previously unrecognised and poorly understood inflammatory component.

In addition, dry eye, a disease with a prevalence of 7 per cent to 37 per cent worldwide, is a multifactorial inflammatory condition. If left untreated, dry eye disease can lead to permanent damage to the surface of the eye, resulting in severe visual impairment. Damage to the corneal surface can also be caused by infections. In particular, infections with Herpes viruses can cause serious corneal scarring that can lead to vision loss.

Inflammation can also profoundly affect vision by leading to retinal degeneration. Since the retina, the neural compartment of the eye, can serve as a window to the brain, much can be learned about the impact of inflammation on brain function, including on cognitive function, from investigating the eye.

So, understanding how immune responses are regulated in the eye, and the impact of inflammation as a cause of eye disease, is an extremely important research area, in terms of people’s quality of life and vision.

Our work, our achievements

The Lions Eye Institute is committed to understanding how immune responses are regulated in the eye and the impact of inflammation as a cause of eye diseases.

Inflammation, ocular surface and anterior segment diseases affecting vision: Sjogren’s Syndrome (SS)/Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, Ocular Graft-versus-Host-Disease (GVHD), Herpes simplex virus (HSV) keratitis are characterised by symptomatic dry eye and/or corneal damage.

Diagnosing and treating these conditions is largely empirical, and there is an urgent need for better immunological biomarkers and therapies.

Our vision is to develop effective therapies for these diseases by harnessing beneficial, and blocking deleterious, effects of immune responses. Our Immunology research group has built an enviable track record in these areas.

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