Welcome to the Niederkorn Lab

The major interest in our laboratory relates to the immunobiology of the eye.

In particular, our research efforts fall into four basic categories:

  • Immunobiology of corneal transplants
  • Immunologic privilege of the anterior chamber of the eye
  • Immunology of intraocular tumors and their metastases
  • Biology, immunology, and pathogenesis of Acanthamoeba keratitis

Our research involves basic immunology that has clinically relevant applications.

Unlike all other forms of organ transplantation, corneal grafts enjoy a remarkably low rejection rate, even without the use of immunosuppressive drugs. This immune privilege of corneal allografts is a major focus of our research activities. Although >90% of corneal grafts succeed in patients, immune rejection remains the leading cause of graft failure, when it occurs. Accordingly, our research also deals with novel strategies for preventing the immune rejection of corneal grafts. In particular, we have developed an oral vaccine for actively suppressing the host’s immune response to histocompatibility antigens on the corneal grafts.

Our laboratory continues to explore the mechanisms responsible for the unique immune privilege in the anterior chamber of the eye. Studies are directed at unraveling the mysterious antigen-specific suppression of systemic cell-mediated immunity that is induced when antigens are placed into the anterior chamber.

Other investigations in our laboratory deal with strategies for preventing the metastatic spread of intraocular tumors. Since metastatic disease is the leading cause of death in cancer patients, we have directed our research activities to develop methods for preventing intravasation, homing, and extravasation of melanoma metastases.

Research on infectious diseases of the eye remains an area of research interest in our lab. One especially intriguing infection called Acanthamoeba keratitis is transmitted with soft contact lenses and causes a progressive, blinding infection of the cornea. Research on this disease spans a wide range of interests including immunology, cell biology, pathology, and therapy.