Inflammation is one of the most common, and evolutionarily conserved, responses in the body. Injury (mechanical or chemical), infection, surgery, toxin exposure, allergy, growth of many cancers, etc, all lead to inflammation. In the eye, as well, inflammation is a common response, ranging from allergic eye disease to contact-lens intolerance to dry eye. Sometimes the inflammatory response is severe enough to endanger sight. Since the eye is constantly exposed to the outside world, potentially harmful and immunogenic materials land on it frequently. Most of the time, the eye can deal with these insults in a way that neutralizes or clears them (say through the tears or antibodies in the tear film) in a manner that is not threatening to sight. However, sometimes inflammation can lead to profound changes in eye tissues, leading to scarring, accumulation of fluids, and other pathological changes (such as growth of new blood vessels) not compatible with good vision.
Inflammation is extremely common. In fact, it is not even conceivable for a healthy normal person not to have some degree of an inflammatory response in the eye virtually every several weeks or so. Most of these common cases, of course, resolve rapidly with or without medicines. It is when inflammation becomes severe and/or chronic that it can jeopardize vision. In particular, autoimmune conditions, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, can pose a significant risk to vision; the same processes that can lead to joint disease can also cause havoc with intraocular tissues. Another problem is that the medicines currently available have two major limitations: first, they have suboptimal efficacy -— they simply do not work very well in cases of severe eye inflammation. Second, these non-specific medications, in particular steroids, are fraught with numerous complications, including opportunistic infection, tissue thinning and atrophy, and development of glaucoma and cataract. Therefore, there is a real and pressing need for better and more effective treatment strategies for ocular inflammatory disorders.
Dr. Dana’s main interests in the lab and clinic are to figure out how immune and inflammatory cells play a role in immune responses. This is fundamental issue in a wide array of immune and inflammatory states, from transplantation to dry eye to allergy. He has an active translational research program developing and testing new targets in dry eye and corneal transplantation.
Dr. Dana and his research team are studying the effects of topical anti-inflammatory medication on patients with posterior blepharitis or inflammation of the inner part of the eyelid. Patients participating in this study use the study eye drops three times a day for three months. The medication is a synthesized naturally occurring protein in your body that helps to regulate inflammation. By controlling the inflammation in the eyelid it is hoped that the uncomfortable symptoms of blepharitis will diminish.