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"Novel Approaches for Detecting and Treating Retinal Disease"

Machelle Pardue, Ph.D.
Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering
Georgia Tech

Neuroprotective treatments
Originating with biocompatibility studies with a subretinal prosthetic, Machelle Pardue has been investigating the neuroprotective effects of subretinal electrical stimulation (SES) on the retina using electrophysiological, histological, and molecular techniques. This work has shown that low level electrical current preserves photoreceptor function and structure. This preservation is associated with the selective and sustained upregulation of fibroblast growth factor beta (FGF2). Currently, her laboratory is exploring cellular and molecular mechanisms of this neuroprotective response as well as determining which retinal diseases benefit from SES.

Her laboratory also has been involved in testing other neuroprotective agents with anti-apoptotic properties, such as the bile acid, tauroursodeoxycholic acid (TUDCA), and other proprietary formulas. These studies are designed to develop neuroprotective treatments for retinal degenerative diseases that could slow the progression of vision loss.

Retinal mechanisms of refractive development
Combining her knowledge of the retina, transgenic mouse models, and optical aspects of the eye, Pardue is investigating how retinal defocus is detected by the retina and translated into a signaling pathway that drives refractive development. By exploiting transgenic mouse models, the influence of specific retinal cells and pathways can be isolated to determine refractive development, particularly myopia, under normal and abnormal visual conditions. This work is aimed at furthering our knowledge of basic retinal physiology, refractive development and refractive errors.

Diabetic retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy, one of leading causes of vision loss, is currently only detected in late stages of the disease. Pardue’s research on diabetic retinopathy is focused on finding non-invasive predictive markers of this disease. Her laboratory is combining information from electrophysiological, imaging, immunohistochemical, and molecular techniques to build a complete understanding of the pathophysiology of neuronal and vascular changes with diabetic retinopathy. These studies focus on following diabetic animal models longitudinally to reveal changes that predict vision loss. With this knowledge, predictive, non-invasive imaging and electrophysiologic changes will be further examined and translated to clinical studies. The goal is to detect diabetic retinopathy before vision loss occurs, thus providing an opportunity for increased glycemic control and/or other pharmacological treatments.


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