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Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of
Retinal Degenerations

Human cones

Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology

Eric A. Pierce, M.D., Ph.D.

Retinal degenerations including retinitis pigmentosa are some of the most common causes of inherited blindness. The Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations conducts multidisciplined research on retinitis pigmentosa, Usher syndrome, macular degeneration, and other related degenerative diseases of the retina. Our researchers have discovered many of the genes responsible for these conditions and are currently exploring new methods of treatment including gene replacement therapy. Results from ocular examinations of more than 14,000 patients are in a computerized data bank that provides an unusual resource for research on these diseases. More than 9,000 blood samples are on file for molecular genetics research.

The Laboratory is presently conducting research that includes:

  • Making a concentrated effort to isolate the genes responsible for retinal degenerations.
  • Studying laboratory models to define the mechanisms that lead to photoreceptor cell death.
  • Evaluating other possible treatments for hereditary retinal degenerations. We have had some success in introducing a gene into retinal photoreceptor cells as a first step in gene therapy.
  • Continuing to evaluate autopsy eyes with retinal degeneration to define the pathogenesis of these conditions at the cellular level. 

Image: Cone photoreceptors of the human retina.