Vision diseases, including retinal degenerative diseases (diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration), retinal ischemia, retinoblastoma, ocular melanoma and corneal diseases affect hundreds of millions worldwide. The pathophysiology of these diseases is still not completely understood and biomarkers for diagnosis and disease progression are lacking. Moreover, the majority of them have no cure and the treatments available are scarce and not effective in many patients. Thus, the identification of new biomarkers and new advanced therapeutic strategies are needed. After cataract and refractive surgeries many patients suffer from dysphotopsia (glare, halos, starbursts). These symptoms can be due to mechanisms occurring at neural level, and neuroadaptation and neuroplasticity of the brain may represent an important factor determining favourable outcomes.
Also, patients with brain neurodegenerative disorders experience visual abnormalities, sometimes even before the disease diagnosis. Since the retina can be assessed by non-invasive techniques, it can be explored as a window to or a mirror of the brain.
Our Group has members with a strong expertise in both animal models of vision diseases and clinical research, with excellent international connections. We are also bridging the gaps between basic and clinical research, designing new projects together and identifying translational projects. We are the unique National Reference Center for treatment of intra-ocular tumors.
The main goals of this Research Strand are:
1) to clarify the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying ocular diseases, giving a particular attention to neuroinflammation;
2) to identify new therapeutic targets;
3) to identify new biomarkers for diagnosis and disease progression;
4) to develop advanced therapeutic strategies (light-activated nanoparticles, microparticles, intraocular implants, stem cell transplantation, viral vectors, photodynamic therapy, supraselective chemotherapy, cold atmospheric plasma);
5) to develop new protocols and surgical techniques;
6) to discovery ways of facilitating neuroadaptation.