Laboratory Research

The Value of Basic and Translational Research

Basic research is the foundation of medical discovery. Through it, we learn key information about the fundamental biological, molecular, and chemical processes of life.

Translational research is the process of taking a discovery from the laboratory into the clinic, where it can ultimately help people.  Often referred to as “bench to bedside” research, it encompasses several stages.  These include testing hypotheses using disease models in the laboratory, bringing new therapies to the clinic to determine their effectiveness in patients, and evaluating if new therapies lead to improved public health.

The mission of the Lowy Medical Research Institute is to improve the lives of people affected by MacTel by developing new therapies to treat or cure MacTel.  Realizing that mission requires us to engage in both basic and translational research.  LMRI supports basic research to learn more about the fundamental biology behind changes that occur in a MacTel eye.  LMRI also supports translational research, from preclinical studies to clinical trials.

At the Lowy Medical Research Institute, basic and translational research are tightly interconnected.  All of the basic science LMRI supports is directly related to MacTel.  The LMRI researchers who do basic research also have ongoing translational research projects.  Open lines of communication between scientists and clinicians speed the pace of discovery and translation to the clinic.

The LMRI research program is designed to help people with MacTel.  However, its discoveries will reach beyond the MacTel community.  The basic research program contributes to the fundamental knowledge of the eye, and could lead to new therapies or new ways of thinking about other forms of vision disease.

Interdisciplinary Research

The Lowy Medical Research Institute supports a world-class laboratory research program devoted to the study of macular telangiectasia type 2. This interdisciplinary research program includes both clinicians and scientists who study the eye, along with a team of geneticists with expertise in inherited eye disorders and statistical analyses.

The laboratory research program complements LMRI’s clinical research program, and there is substantial cross-talk between the groups. In fact, many of our laboratory scientists are themselves clinicians, or they partner at their home institute with a clinical researcher who also studies MacTel.

LMRI’s laboratory research encompasses the cell types known to be affected by MacTel: photoreceptors, Müller glia, blood vessels, and retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells. It also includes the study of cellular and tissue-specific abnormalities relevant to MacTel, including macular pigments and metabolic changes. The program also includes collaboration with experts in deep learning and machine learning who use computers to analyze large numbers of retinal images to identify and study MacTel.  LMRI has dedicated substantial resources to identifying the genetic basis for MacTel through its genetics program, which has led to important insights into factors that contribute to the disease.

One of the strengths of the Lowy Medical Research Institute is its ability to quickly respond to new discoveries.  LMRI continues to bring in new collaborators and move research in new directions based on insights derived from the research program.

Collaborating Investigators

The Lowy Medical Research Institute works in collaboration with scientific investigators at universities around the world to study macular telangiectasia type 2. Scientists are invited to participate in LMRI research based on the specific expertise each brings to the project. LMRI-affiliated laboratory and clinical researchers share information about MacTel with each other to advance both knowledge about the disease, and the mission of LMRI.