Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of legal blindness in the industrial world in people over an age of 65 years. The research at the Dept. of Ophthalmology is therefore focused on cause and mechanisms of the observed defects as well as on the development of new therapeutic and diagnostic strategies. The ultimate goal hereby is to get a better understanding of AMD by using new diagnostic means increasing the possibility of prevention. An increase of the macular pigment (MP) by dietary supplementation in order to modify the natural course of the disease is in the focus of our clinical research. Furthermore, distribution of lipofuscin, a marker of age-related changes, is measured with retinal autofluorescence to give a more accurate personal prognosis of the disease.
Cell replacement therapies
Cells isolated from different tissues are used for the replacement of damaged retinal cells with the purpose of restoring lost vision. Adult stem cells are transplanted subretinally in animal models with specific retinal defects and their integration and differentiation is studied. Additionally, electrophysiological and behavior tests will be applied to measure recovery of visual functions after transplantation. Furthermore, the endogenous regeneration capacity of Muller cells is being investigated.
Imaging: Fluorescence lifetime imaging ophthalmoscopy (FLIO) is a novel non-invasive imaging technique whereby decay times of natural retinal fluorophores are measured. Therewith, we are investigating retinal structures in patients as well as in mouse models with retinal degeneration. The aim is to find early metabolic changes within the retina and to identify the diagnostic and prognostic potential of FLIO.
Retinal Vein Occlusion (RVO)
The pathogenesis of this common vascular disorder of the retina remains controversial. The aim of this study is to gain information about the role of inflammatory cells (macrophages, retinal microglia) in the course of RVO to elucidate the influence of the innate immune system.
Retinal nuclear receptors
Nuclear receptors are a large family of ligand-activated transcription factors, acting as molecular switches in development, metabolism, homeostasis etc. Nuclear receptors are essential for proper retinal development, and, for instance, the absence of a functional photoreceptor-specific nuclear receptor NR2E3 causes a misspecification of dim light-sensitive rod versus bright light-sensitive cone photoreceptors (Goldmann-Favre syndrome, enhanced S-cone sensitivity syndrome), or a degeneration of rod photoreceptors (retinitis pigmentosa). In addition to these rare inherited retinal dystrophies, functions of the fatty acid-activated nuclear receptors PPARs (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors) are evaluated in more frequent retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. To identify the various disease mechanisms underlying nuclear receptor-linked retinal diseases we resort to structural and functional analyses in vitro, in cellular models and in vivo.
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