Ocular Fibrosis Research

Early detection of vitreoretinal diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy (DR), proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), might allow treatment before structural irreversible damage occurs. Furthermore, targeting specific areas of the retina or targeting specific molecules that lead to the progression of those retinal diseases is desirable, as some drugs are toxic for the retina or have deleterious effects.

Drugs can be incorporated into biodegradable nanocarriers, those micro- and nanoparticles enable cellular penetration and maintain sustained release with high target specificity.

Despite advancements in vitreoretinal surgery, proliferative vitreoretinal diseases, such as proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) and proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), remain common causes of severe vision loss among the working population and its prevention or targeted treatment is of high priority. 

A better understanding of the pathogenesis of these vitreoretinal diseases is fundamental for the development of new pharmacologic treatments and treatment applications. The Rho/ROCK signaling pathway is implicated in various cellular functions, such as cell proliferation, adhesion, migration, and contraction. Therefore, one specific aim is to study the involvement of the Rho/ROCK signaling pathway in the pathogenesis of vitreoretinal diseases. 

Micro-and nanotechnology has considerable advantages in retinal drug delivery, such as enhanced drug solubility and bioavailability, improved drug penetration and less frequent drug administration. Safety always remains a concern when bringing new drugs and new application techniques from bench to bedside, however with interdisciplinary collaboration across the fields of science, engineering, and medicine, better ophthalmic treatments will be available for clinical use in the near future. These advancements hold great promise for drug delivery systems that will make the treatment for retinal diseases much safer, more convenient, and more effective.

In addition to candidate drug molecules, such as ROCK isoforms or other molecules from the Rho/ROCK signaling pathway, optimal therapeutic drug delivery systems for vitreoretinal diseases need to be established with the continued development of more potent drugs combined with research into novel delivery methods. Therefore, this research is of high relevance for future retinal applications. 

With our research, we aim to identify specific molecules and signaling cascades that lead to excessive fibrosis in the eye and therefore to irreversible loss if vision. By doing so, we want to alter those signaling cascades in a way, that we can reduce or even inhibit the formation of fibrosis and successfully treat those severe retinal diseases or even prevent them.