Retinal diseases such as retinal detachments and macular degeneration are a leading cause of vision loss and blindness in this country and around the world. Despite available surgical and medical treatments for these diseases, patients still experience a large amount of vision loss secondary to the disruption in nutritional support provided to the retina by the underlying tissues. This disruption causes death of the retina, and of the photoreceptor cells in particular. Apoptosis, or programmed cell death, has been implicated as the mechanism by which photoreceptor cells die, but the molecular mechanisms of activation, transduction and execution of the apoptotic cascade in retinal diseases are poorly understood. The main hypothesis of this research proposal is that photoreceptor cell death during retinal detachments and macular degeneration occurs via apoptosis. The research outlined in this application will use a newly developed rodent model of retinal detachments and molecular biologic and genetic techniques to gain new insight into apoptotic photoreceptor cell death. This will allow us to develop and test new neuroprotective therapies for improving visual outcomes in retinal disease.
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