Eye Development and Disease Research

The Visual Systems Group comprises the research arm of the Division of Ophthalmology, and is dedicated to basic science and clinical research focused on ocular development and disease. Our scientists, through their commitment to enhancing our understanding of vision and ocular development and their work toward developing innovative treatments for ocular disease, maintain a reputation throughout the world as a cutting-edge research group. The group and its faculty, under the direction of Richard Lang, PhD, conducts research projects funded by the National Institutes of Health National Eye Institute, the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute for Deafness and Communication Disorders. Members of our faculty have been recipients of funded awards from a wide variety of foundations and private donors, including the Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation and the Pearle Vision Foundation. The division continues to attract graduate students and postdoctoral research fellows from around the world and is recognized as a leader in the development of young scientists with an interest in vision research.

Our scientists study the mechanisms of eye development and disease in a wide range of biological models, ranging from Drosophila melanogaster (fruit fly) to humans. Our investigators study the molecular mechanisms of various developmental processes of the eye, and these studies continue to improve our understanding of congenital eye abnormalities, such as aniridia, Peter’s anomaly, microphthalmia and anophthalmia. Investigations that study macrophages and the mechanisms of vascular development in the eye contribute greatly to our understanding of the disease processes of macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cancer biology. Our retinal research focuses on proteins that are critical for proper eye and brain neurogenesis across a wide range of species, and these proteins are linked with a wide range of congenital defects targeting photoreceptors that lead to visual impairment in children and young adults. The mapping, identification and characterization of the genes underlying Usher syndrome is very helpful in unveiling the molecules important for both sound and light transduction and to understand the molecular pathways common to both the eye, and the ear. Our research includes studies of sensory systems other that those related to vision, expanding our understanding of those mechanisms that affect our ability to sense pain and temperature, as well.