Research Focus

Li receives NIH grant for Corneal Epithelial studies

researchFocusQiutang Li, Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, has received a four-year grant of over $370,000 annually from the National Institutes of Health for a study aimed at elucidating the role of a family of proteins, known as 14-3-3σ, in the regenerative nature of the corneal epithelium, which serves as a barrier between the eye and the outside world. Li and her team have already shown that 14-3-3σ plays a crucial role in corneal epithelial differentiation, the self-renewal process by which a reservoir of limbal stem cells in the corneal epithelium migrates to sites of injury and replaces the damaged epithelium. The current study seeks to further explain the roles 14-3-3σ plays in the development of the corneal epithelium and in the wound healing process.

 The information that Li and her colleagues gather through their cell line and mouse studies could be useful in treating corneal epithelium damaged by chemical burns or other trauma. The integrity of the cornea, the most anterior part of the eye, is indispensible for vision and approximately 45 million people worldwide are blind and another 135 million have severely impaired vision as a result of damage to the corneal epithelium.

Shao and Lu win grants from Research to Prevent Blindness organization

Hui Shao, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has received a $60,000 Lew R. Wasserman Merit Award from the Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) organization. The grant will help fund Shao’s research of Sjogren’s syndrome, a chronic autoimmune disease that targets the salivary and lacrimal glands – the glands that produce saliva and tears, respectively – resulting in dry mouth and dry eye symptoms.

Shao and her team recently discovered a protein, called Klk22, that appears to play a role in the development of Sjogren’s Syndrome.

researchFocus2Qingxian Lu, Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, has received the $60,000 William and Mary Greve Special Scholar Award from the Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) organization. The funds will go toward Lu’s research in retinitis pigmentosa, a group of genetic disorders that can lead to night blindness, loss of peripheral vision and total blindness.

Lu’s research focuses specifically on a cellular receptor called MerTK, which may play a role in limiting the duration of immune response, leading to the development of retinal inflammation. Understanding this mechanism of action may lead to better prevention and treatment techniques in the future.