Gaining insight into retinal cell death: rational drug development through vitreous proteomic analysis

JI Program: Exploratory/Ophthalmology

Retinal cell death causes vision loss in many ophthalmic diseases.  Despite improved treatments, a major knowledge gap remains in understanding the etiology, molecular mechanisms, and functional gene pathways leading to cell death. Drs. Zacks and Yang study retinal cell death in a variety of animal models, with the goal of identifying targets for the rational development of therapeutics to prevent retinal cell death and improve outcomes. Drs. Zacks and Yang will be performing proteomic analysis of the vitreous fluid of patients and perform pathway analyses in an effort to identify relevant stress-response pathways activated during retinal disease.  Pathways identified will then be validated for their contribution to cell death (or survival) in our established animal and cell culture systems. The work performed in this Discovery Award will lay the foundation for years of fruitful collaboration, with the potential to rapidly and efficiently identify and test molecular points for therapeutic intervention for preserving retinal cell viability and function – ultimately allowing for improved visual outcomes for our patients.