MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Kip Connor, Ph.D.
Harvard Medical School
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology
Department of Ophthalmology
Massachusetts Eye and Ear
MGH ECOR Ophthalmology Representative
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Classically, the retina and the central nervous system (CNS) have long been considered immunoprivileged sites within the body. This is not to say that these sites lack immunity; rather, they are capable of exhibiting a contained yet modifiable form of immunological response. Indeed, an intricate immune surveillance system exists within the retina that can interact with the retinal cellular milieu both during development and in response to injury or disease. While activation of this surveillance system can help protect and repair the delicate neural tissue of the retina in certain disease states, over-activation of this system can exacerbate disease pathology, thereby worsening vision loss.
Microglia are the resident immune cells of the central nervous system, including the retina, and are thought to function acutely in the homeostatic maintenance of the neuro-retinal microenvironment. However in chronic conditions, like autoimmune uveitis, we hypothesized that microglia become neurodegenerative.
In our current study we show for the first time a role for microglia in directing the initiation of this autoimmune disease by orchestrating the inflammatory response within the retina through the retinal vessels.