We also use the cornea as an experimental model to gain insights into neovascular disease (angiogenesis). New regenerative treatments and surgical techniques are being researched and developed, and patient populations are being characterized in clinical studies using advanced imaging techniques. Some of the ongoing projects in the group include:
- Mechanisms and treatment of corneal neovascularization
- Non-invasive imaging of peripheral nerve fibers in the cornea as a surrogate marker for diabetes onset and progression
- Clinical, molecular and genetic studies of European aniridia cohorts
- Bioengineering the cornea: from materials to clinical applications
Developing new therapies for blindness and visual impairment
Our research group has a strong focus on developing new surgical methods and evaluating experimental compounds and drug delivery methods for treating corneal disease.
For over a decade the Lagali lab has been experimenting with femtosecond laser-based corneal surgery to evaluate the wound healing response and develop less invasive surgical methods. Wound healing, inflammation, and neovascularization can be triggered by surgery, and the goal is to minimize these unwanted effects by adapting the surgery to cause minimal trauma to the cornea.
Collaborating with adjunct Senior Lecturer Mehrdad Rafat from the Department of Biomedical Engineering, surgeries are being developed for implantation of bioengineered materials to enable vision restoration and long-term delivery of drugs to the cornea.
Femtosecond laser interface used for cutting and reshaping the cornea. Photo credit Thor Balkhed
EU COST Action CA18116 – Aniridia: networking to address an unmet medical, scientific, and societal challenge (ANIRIDIA-NET), 2019 – 2023
Action Coordinator and Main Proposer: Neil Lagali
Aniridia is a devastating ocular disease requiring intensive eye care, social and community support from birth and throughout an individual's lifetime. A congenital genetic mutation causes an underdeveloped retina, cataract, glaucoma, and a progressive ocular surface disease of stem cell deficiency and loss of corneal transparency. Classified as a rare disease (ORPHA:77), aniridia is extremely challenging for the ophthalmologist, with very few effective treatments available. This stems from a lack of adequate-sized patient populations to conduct coordinated clinical and research activities, and a lack of information exchange in assessing and treating aniridia, with expertise typically limited to geographically-dispersed centers. The goals of ANIRIDIA-NET are therefore to:
- Build a large, inclusive EU network of ophthalmologists, scientists, trainees, aniridia patient organizations, industry, and special interest groups to create linkages and a rich training ground for a new generation of trainees;
- Improve aniridia management through evidence-based research, harmonized clinical protocols, pooling/sharing of samples and models, and consensus activities; and
- Stimulate development of novel diagnostics and treatments for aniridia based on innovative research in regenerative medicine/stem cells, investigational drugs, gene therapy, tissue engineering, transplantation, etc.
Although a rare disease, aniridia is associated with ocular surface pathology such as dry eye, inflammation, stem cell insufficiency, nerve degeneration, and vascularization - problems common to many ocular surface pathologies collectively affecting large populations. Greater collaboration and sharing of information and resources in the area of aniridia is therefore additionally expected to have significant benefits for the treatment of larger patient populations with ocular surface disease.
EU Horizon2020 RIA Project: Advanced Regenerative and Restorative Therapies to Combat Corneal Blindness (ARREST BLINDNESS), 2016 – 2020
Project Coordinator: Neil Lagali
ARREST BLINDNESS is a consortium of 13 institutions in 8 countires, performing a four-year research project funded by the HORIZON 2020 program of the European Commission. Within the project we are developing and validating advanced regenerative and restorative therapies to treat the loss of corneal transparancy so that it does not result in blindness.
Read more: www.arrestblindness.eu