Focus of Research Program: Biochemistry of Nearsightedness (myopia). Most human and animal eyes match achieve a match of the eye's axial length to its own optical power, so that images are in focus on the retina, a condition known as emmetropia. This match is achieved with a feedback mechanism that uses signals from the retina to guide the growth of the eye by controlling the biochemical and biomechanical properties of the sclera, the outer coating of the eye. We are studying this emmetropization mechanism in an animal model, examining changes in gene expression in the retina that produce the signals sent to the sclera, and studying the responses of the scleral extracellular matrix that actually control the size of the eye.
The goal of our research is to learn how emmetropia is normally produced and how the emmetropization mechanism is disrupted to produce myopia in humans. Techniques used in the lab include real-time PCR to assess mRNA changes in candidate genes during myopia development and western blots to examine changes in protein expression. Changes in protein expression are also assessed using two-dimensional gels (with DIGE technology), coupled with mass spectrometry to identify novel proteins that participate in the emmetropization mechanism.