Dr. Boulan's laboratory research concerns the organization and function of epithelial cells. More than 100 different epithelial cells are present in the human body, and their malfunction leads to a large number of human diseases, including cancer. Dr. Boulan’s main focus is epithelia in the eyes and kidneys, including Retinal Pigment Epithelium (RPE), the principal support cell of the retina and light-sensitive photoreceptor cells (rods and cones). Dr. Boulan’s laboratory team has shown that accumulation of the RPE age pigment lipofuscin is an important contributor for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), a disease that affects over 30 percent of the U.S. senior population. The group is currently developing strategies to slow and stop progression of the disease.
Dr. Hirata studies corneal nerves, and their dysfunctions that contribute to initiation and/or perpetuation of Dry Eye Disease (DED). As the most common complaint of patients visiting eye care specialists, DED affects millions of Americans. Based on the diminished tear production of dry eye patients, Dr. Hirata’s team recently discovered that the corneal nerves contain neurons responsible for producing tears. Their current project concerns the hyperosmolar (hypertonic) tears known to be ubiquitously present in dry eye patients, and how these tears affect the function of corneal neurons.
Dr. Sung's laboratory research revolves around the molecular and cellular pathogenesis underlying Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Proliferative VitreoRetinopathy (PVR), as well as therapeutic interventions for these retinopathies.