Audrey Bernstein, PhD, is an associate professor in the Departments of Ophthalmology and Pharmacology and Systems Therapeutics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY. Her post-doctoral training was in the field of ocular wound healing.
Our work is focused on two clinically important ocular disorders: scarring and glaucoma. Our studies focus on the involvement of abnormal protein accumulation in both of these ocular pathologies. Specifically, we have elucidated novel intracellular ubiquitin-mediated degradation pathways that control cell-surface integrin expression and subsequent fibrotic growth factor (TGFb) signaling and scarring in the eye. Silencing of specific genes in this pathway prevents scarring and promote regenerative healing.
In exfoliation glaucoma, the leading identifiable cause of open-angle glaucoma, accumulation of protein aggregates in the eye leads to elevated intraocular pressure and subsequent glaucoma. We have discovered that a significant lysosomal/autophagic and mitochondrial defect defines primary cells isolated from the eyes of XFS patients. Our studies suggest that these age-related dysfunctions may be an underlying cause of this blinding disease
In both studies, the use of patient-derived primary cells and organ culture, quantitative confocal microscopy, histology, flow cytometry, lentivirus technology, and genetic screening are utilized to reveal new therapeutic targets to prevent vision loss. Dr. Bernstein’s serves as an ocular expert reviewer for several study sections including the National Eye Institute (NEI), The U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the UK, and The Glaucoma Foundation. Her research has been supported by NEI, Research to Prevent Blindness, The Glaucoma Foundation, BrightFocus Foundation, and the Moise and Chella Safra Foundation, as well as private donations.