Protect Vision Cells Threatened by Degenerative Disease

Cells like this astrocyte communicate through chemical signals.Cells like this astrocyte communicate through chemical signals.

No cell grows and acts in isolation. The cells of the human eye communicate through an extensive series of chemical signals. Even the process of cell death is regulated by these signals. Scientists at the Donald K Johnson Eye Institute are working to document these communications in healthy and diseased eyes, and to develop drug therapies that interrupt processes leading to cell death. Such therapies may not reverse blindness, but they do have the potential to slow vision loss in its earliest stages.

By studying damaged cells, researchers at the Donald K Johnson Eye Institute can learn to control these signals. Jeremy Sivak and Philippe Monnier are both involved in research to understand cell signalling, and to use this knowledge to create new treatments that protect vision cells.  This applies to vision cells, but also to other cells within the brain. In 2014, Dr. Monnier demonstrated a potential treatment to interrupt cell communications could prevent brain damage due to stroke.

Research to protect vision cells at the Donald K Johnson Eye Institute, primarily focuses on understanding cell signals involved in glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa and in developing therapies for these conditions.  Research initiatives include:

Studying cell communications and targeting these messages with specially designed molecules has become an important strategy for modern drug development. For example, the development of drugs which target cell communications around blood vessel growth has revolutionized the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration. Institute clinicians have been heavily involved in clinical trials testing wet AMD therapies, and will be clinical partners in future drug testing.