Welcome to the Lakkaraju Laboratory!
Our research aims to identify cellular mechanisms that drive vision loss in inherited and age-related macular degenerations, which destroy central, high-resolution vision in over 30 million people worldwide. Patients with macular degeneration cannot perform essential tasks that most of us take for granted such as reading and writing, nor can they recognize the faces of their loved ones. The ultimate goal of our research is to use fundamental insights from retinal cell biology to design effective therapies that safeguard healthy vision.
We study the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), which nourishes and supports the light-sensingphotoreceptors in the retina. The RPE is also the initial site of damage in macular degenerations. How RPE injury leads to vision loss is not yet clear. We use cutting-edge live imaging of healthy and diseased retina along with animal models and advanced cellular and molecular assays to identify early insults that compromise RPE function and can eventually lead to AMD. To gain insight into disease pathogenesis, our research team investigates mechanisms that regulate critical pathways such as autophagy and lysosome function, mitochondrial dynamics, complement-mediated inflammation, and RPE-photoreceptor communication.
Super-resolution live-cell imaging of interactions between mitochondria (green) and lysosomes (yellow).
Recent research from our laboratory has identified novel pathways that can be targeted by existing FDA-approved drugs to preserve the health and function of the retina and the RPE over a lifetime. We anticipate that our research will expand insight into basic retinal biology, aid the development of strategies to preserve retinal function, and alter the course of vision loss.