Publications

2017
Kim EC, Toyono T, Berlinicke CA, Zack DJ, Jurkunas U, Usui T, Jun AS. Screening and Characterization of Drugs That Protect Corneal Endothelial Cells Against Unfolded Protein Response and Oxidative Stress. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2017;58 (2) :892-900.Abstract
Purpose: To screen for and characterize compounds that protect corneal endothelial cells against unfolded protein response (UPR) and oxidative stress. Methods: Bovine corneal endothelial cells (BCECs) were treated for 48 hours with 640 compounds from a Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug library and then challenged with thapsigargin or H2O2 to induce UPR or oxidative stress, respectively. Cell viability was measured using the CellTiter-Glo survival assay. Selected "hits" were subjected to further dose-response testing, and their ability to modulate expression of UPR and oxidative stress markers was assessed by RT-PCR, Western blot, and measurement of protein carbonyl and 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) adducts in immortalized human corneal endothelial cells (iHCECs). Results: Forty-one drugs at 20 μM and 55 drugs at 100 μM increased survival of H2O2-challenged cells, and 8 drugs at 20 μM and 2 drugs at 100 μM increased survival of thapsigargin-challenged cells, compared with untreated control cells. Nicergoline, ergothioneine, nimesulide, oxotremorine, and mefenamic acid increased survival of both H2O2- and thapsigargin-challenged cells. Oxotremorine altered DNA damage inducible 3 (CHOP) gene expression, glucose-regulated protein 78 kDa (GRP78) and activating transcription factor 4 (ATF4) protein expression, and protein carbonyl and 8-OHdG levels. Mefenamic acid altered GRP78 protein expression and protein carbonyl and 8-OHdG levels. Conclusions: Oxotremorine and mefenamic acid are potential survival factors for corneal endothelial cells under UPR and oxidative stress. The described assay can be further expanded to screen additional drugs for potential therapeutic effect in corneal endothelial diseases such as Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy.
2016
Katikireddy KR, Jurkunas UV. Limbal Stromal Tissue Specific Stem Cells and Their Differentiation Potential to Corneal Epithelial Cells. Methods Mol Biol. 2016;1341 :437-44.Abstract
From the derivation of the first human embryonic stem (hES) cell line to the development of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells; it has become evident that tissue specific stem cells are able to differentiate into a specific somatic cell types. The understanding of key processes such as the signaling pathways and the role of the microenvironment in epidermal/epithelial development has provided important clues for the derivation of specific epithelial cell types.Various differentiation protocols/methods were used to attain specific epithelial cell types. Here, we describe in detail the procedure to follow for isolation of tissue specific stem cells, mimicking their microenvironment to attain stem cell characteristics, and their potential differentiation to corneal epithelial cells.
Halilovic A, Schmedt T, Benischke A-S, Hamill C, Chen Y, Santos JH, Jurkunas UV. Menadione-Induced DNA Damage Leads to Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Fragmentation During Rosette Formation in Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2016;24 (18) :1072-83.Abstract
AIMS: Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD), a leading cause of age-related corneal edema requiring transplantation, is characterized by rosette formation of corneal endothelium with ensuing apoptosis. We sought to determine whether excess of mitochondrial reactive oxygen species leads to chronic accumulation of oxidative DNA damage and mitochondrial dysfunction, instigating cell death. RESULTS: We modeled the pathognomonic rosette formation of postmitotic corneal cells by increasing endogenous cellular oxidative stress with menadione (MN) and performed a temporal analysis of its effect in normal (HCEnC, HCECi) and FECD (FECDi) cells and ex vivo specimens. FECDi and FECD ex vivo specimens exhibited extensive mtDNA and nDNA damage as detected by quantitative PCR. Exposure to MN triggered an increase in mitochondrial superoxide levels and led to mtDNA and nDNA damage, while DNA amplification was restored with NAC pretreatment. Furthermore, MN exposure led to a decrease in ΔΨm and adenosine triphosphate levels in normal cells, while FECDi exhibited mitochondrial dysfunction at baseline. Mitochondrial fragmentation and cytochrome c release were detected in FECD tissue and after MN treatment of HCEnCs. Furthermore, cleavage of caspase-9 and caspase-3 followed MN-induced cytochrome c release in HCEnCs. INNOVATION: This study provides the first line of evidence that accumulation of oxidative DNA damage leads to rosette formation, loss of functionally intact mitochondria via fragmentation, and subsequent cell death during postmitotic cell degeneration of ocular tissue. CONCLUSION: MN induced rosette formation, along with mtDNA and nDNA damage, mitochondrial dysfunction, and fragmentation, leading to activation of the intrinsic apoptosis via caspase cleavage and cytochrome c release. Antioxid. Redox Signal. 24, 1072-1083.
Katikireddy KR, Schmedt T, Price MO, Price FW, Jurkunas UV. Existence of Neural Crest-Derived Progenitor Cells in Normal and Fuchs Endothelial Dystrophy Corneal Endothelium. Am J Pathol. 2016;186 (10) :2736-50.Abstract

Human corneal endothelial cells are derived from neural crest and because of postmitotic arrest lack competence to repair cell loss from trauma, aging, and degenerative disorders such as Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD). Herein, we identified a rapidly proliferating subpopulation of cells from the corneal endothelium of adult normal and FECD donors that exhibited features of neural crest-derived progenitor (NCDP) cells by showing absence of senescence with passaging, propensity to form spheres, and increased colony forming efficacy compared with the primary cells. The collective expression of stem cell-related genes SOX2, OCT4, LGR5, TP63 (p63), as well as neural crest marker genes PSIP1 (p75(NTR)), PAX3, SOX9, AP2B1 (AP-2β), and NES, generated a phenotypic footprint of endothelial NCDPs. NCDPs displayed multipotency by differentiating into microtubule-associated protein 2, β-III tubulin, and glial fibrillary acidic protein positive neurons and into p75(NTR)-positive human corneal endothelial cells that exhibited transendothelial resistance of functional endothelium. In conclusion, we found that mitotically incompetent ocular tissue cells contain adult NCDPs that exhibit a profile of transcription factors regulating multipotency and neural crest progenitor characteristics. Identification of normal NCDPs in FECD-affected endothelium holds promise for potential autologous cell therapies.

Liu C, Vojnovic D, Kochevar IE, Jurkunas UV. UV-A Irradiation Activates Nrf2-Regulated Antioxidant Defense and Induces p53/Caspase3-Dependent Apoptosis in Corneal Endothelial Cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016;57 (4) :2319-27.Abstract
PURPOSE: To examine whether Nrf2-regulated antioxidant defense and p53 are activated in human corneal endothelial cells (CEnCs) by environmental levels of ultraviolet A (UV-A), a known stimulator of oxidative stress. METHODS: Immortalized human CEnCs (HCEnCi) were exposed to UV-A fluences of 2.5, 5, 10, or 25 J/cm2, then allowed to recover for 3 to 24 hours. Control HCEnCi did not receive UV-A. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) were measured using H2DCFDA. Cell cytotoxicity was evaluated by lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) release. Levels of Nrf2, HO-1, NQO-1, p53, and caspase3 were detected by immunnoblotting or real-time PCR. Activated caspase3 was measured by immunoblotting and a fluorescence assay. RESULTS: Exposure of HCEnCi to 5, 10, and 25 J/cm2 UV-A increased ROS levels compared with controls. Nrf2, HO-1, and NQO-1 mRNA increased 1.7- to 3.2-fold at 3 and 6 hours after irradiation with 2.5 and 5 J/cm2 UV-A. At 6 hours post irradiation, UV-A (5 J/cm2) enhanced nuclear Nrf2 translocation. At 24 hours post treatment, UV-A (5, 10, and 25 J/cm2) produced a 1.8- to 2.8-fold increase in phospho-p53 and a 2.6- to 6.0-fold increase in activated caspase3 compared with controls, resulting in 20% to 42% cell death. CONCLUSIONS: Lower fluences of UV-A induce Nrf2-regulated antioxidant defense and higher fluences activate p53 and caspase3, indicating that even near-environmental levels of UV-A may affect normal CEnCs. This data suggest that UV-A may especially damage cells deficient in antioxidant defense, and thus may be involved in the etiology of Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD).
Qazi Y, Hurwitz S, Khan S, Jurkunas UV, Dana R, Hamrah P. Validity and Reliability of a Novel Ocular Pain Assessment Survey (OPAS) in Quantifying and Monitoring Corneal and Ocular Surface Pain. Ophthalmology. 2016;123 (7) :1458-68.Abstract
PURPOSE: To validate the Ocular Pain Assessment Survey (OPAS), specifically designed to measure ocular pain and quality of life for use by eye care practitioners and researchers. DESIGN: A single-center cohort study was conducted among patients with and without corneal and ocular surface pain at initial and follow-up visits over a 6-month period. The content of the OPAS was guided by literature review, a body of experts, and incorporating conceptual frameworks from existing pain questionnaires. The Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale served as the gold standard for measuring the intensity of ocular pain. PARTICIPANTS: A total of 102 patients aged 18 to 80 years completed the OPAS at the initial visit. A total of 21 patients were followed up after treatment. METHODS: Indices of validity and internal consistency (Spearman's rank-order, rs, or Pearson's correlation coefficients, rp), and coefficient of reliability (Cronbach's α) were determined in addition to equivalence testing, exploratory factor analysis (EFA), and diagnostic analysis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Eye pain intensity was the primary outcome measure, and interference with quality of life (QoL), aggravating factors, associated factors, associated non-eye pain intensity, and self-reported symptomatic relief were the secondary outcome measures. RESULTS: The OPAS had criterion validity at both initial (rs = 0.71; n = 102; P < 0.01) and follow-up visits (rs = 0.97; n = 21; P < 0.01). Equivalence tests yielded OPAS and gold standard equivalence for both the initial and follow-up visits. The EFA supported 6 subscales (eye pain intensity at 24 hours and 2 weeks, non-eye pain intensity, QoL, aggravating factors, and associated factors) confirming multidimensionality. Cronbach's α >0.83 for all subscales established strong internal consistency, which correlated with the gold standard, including 24-hour eye pain intensity and QoL interference scores (rp = 0.81, 0.64, respectively P < 0.001). At follow-up, reduction in pain scores was accompanied by improvement in all dimensions of the OPAS. Percentage change in QoL correlated to percentage change in the gold standard (rp = 0.53; P < 0.05). The OPAS was sensitive (94%), specific (81%), and accurate (91%), with a diagnostic odds ratio >50. CONCLUSIONS: The OPAS is a valid, reliable, and responsive tool with strong psychometric and diagnostic properties in the multidimensional quantification of corneal and ocular surface pain intensity, and QoL.
2015
Chauhan SK, Jurkunas U, Funaki T, Dastjerdi M, Dana R. Quantification of allospecific and nonspecific corneal endothelial cell damage after corneal transplantation. Eye (Lond). 2015;29 (1) :136-44.Abstract
PURPOSE: To investigate the effect of host immunity (allospecific) and surgical manipulation (non-allospecific) on corneal endothelial cells (CECs) in corneal transplantation. METHODS: Draining lymph nodes and grafted C57BL/6 corneas were harvested from syngeneic recipients, allograft acceptors, and allograft rejectors (BALB/c) 1, 3, and 8 weeks after transplantation. We analyzed CEC apoptosis using an ex vivo cornea-in-the-cup assay, and visualized cell-to-cell junctions using immunohistochemical staining (ZO-1). Automatic cell analysis using Confoscan software was used to measure CEC density as well as changes in CEC morphology by quantifying the coefficient of variation in cell size (polymegethism) and shape (pleomorphism). RESULTS: The cornea-in-the-cup assay showed that allogeneic acceptor T cells and to an even greater extent rejector T cells (but not syngeneic T cells) induced CEC apoptosis. CEC density after corneal transplantation was significantly reduced in allogeneic acceptors compared with syngeneic grafts (P<0.001), and CEC density was even further reduced in the allo-rejector group compared with the allo-acceptor group. Allogeneic grafts showed a greater increase in the coefficient of variation in cell size (polymegethism) when compared with syngeneic grafts 1 week after transplantation (P=P<0.001). However, pleomorphism was not significantly different between syngeneic and allo-acceptor grafts, indicating that polymegethism (but not pleomorphism or cell density) is a sensitive indicator of the effect of alloimmunity on CECs. CONCLUSIONS: Our data demonstrate that host alloimmunity rather than surgical manipulation alone is the major cause of CEC damage in corneal transplantation, and such morphologic changes of CECs can be detected before the clinically visible onset of allograft rejection.
Saboo US, Amparo F, Shikari H, Jurkunas UV, Dana R. Outcomes of phacoemulsification in patients with chronic ocular graft-versus-host disease. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2015;253 (6) :901-7.Abstract
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the outcomes of phacoemulsification in patients with ocular graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). METHODS: The occurrence of cataracts, cataract surgery, and its outcomes were analyzed in the medical records of 229 patients (458 eyes) with ocular GVHD. Outcome measures included pre- and postoperative corrected distance visual acuity (CDVA) and the rate of postoperative complications. RESULTS: Of the 458 eyes evaluated, 58 were pseudophakic; from the 400 phakic eyes, 238 (59 %) presented with cataracts and 62 (26 %) underwent cataract surgery. Analysis of postoperative complications and visual outcomes at 1 month was performed in 51 eyes in which detailed surgical and immediate postoperative records were available. Preoperatively, the mean CDVA was 0.67 ± 0.57 LogMAR (Snellen 20/93), improving postoperatively to 0.17 ± 0.18 (Snellen 20/29) at 1 month (P < 0.0001), and to 0.13 ± 0.14 (Snellen 20/26) by the final follow-up visit (P < 0.0001). Postoperative complications included corneal epithelial defects (8 %), filamentary keratitis (6 %), worsening of corneal epitheliopathy (16 %), posterior capsular opacification (18 %), and cystoid macular edema (4 %). A corrected distance visual acuity of 20/30 or better was achieved in 87 % of the eyes; suboptimal CDVA improvement was attributable to severe ocular surface disease, pre-existing advanced glaucoma, and prior macular surgery. CONCLUSIONS: Phacoemulsification in patients with chronic ocular GVHD is a safe and efficacious procedure resulting in significant visual improvement. Overall, postoperative adverse events responded well to timely management.
2014
Liu C, Chen Y, Kochevar IE, Jurkunas UV. Decreased DJ-1 leads to impaired Nrf2-regulated antioxidant defense and increased UV-A-induced apoptosis in corneal endothelial cells. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2014;55 (9) :5551-60.Abstract
PURPOSE: To investigate the role of DJ-1 in Nrf2-regulated antioxidant defense in corneal endothelial cells (CECs) at baseline and in response to ultraviolet A (UV-A)-induced oxidative stress. METHODS: DJ-1-deficient CECs were obtained by transfection of an immortalized normal human corneal endothelial cell line (HCECi) with DJ-1 small interfering RNA (siRNA) or by isolation of CECs from ex vivo corneas of DJ-1 knockout mice. Levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), protein carbonyls, Nrf2 subcellular localization, Nrf2 target genes, and protein interaction between Keap1/Nrf2 and Cul3/Nrf2 were compared between normal and DJ-1-deficient CECs. Oxidative stress was induced by irradiating HCECi cells with UV-A, and cell death and levels of activated caspase3 and phospho-p53 were determined. RESULTS: DJ-1 siRNA-treated cells exhibited increased levels of ROS production and protein carbonyls as well as a 2.2-fold decrease in nuclear Nrf2 protein when compared to controls. DJ-1 downregulation led to attenuated gene expression of Nrf2 and its target genes HO-1 and NQO1. Similar levels of Nrf2 inhibitor, Keap1, and Cul3/Nrf2 and Keap1/Nrf2 were observed in DJ-1 siRNA-treated cells as compared to controls. Ultraviolet A irradiation resulted in a 3.0-fold increase in cell death and elevated levels of activated caspase3 and phospho-p53 in DJ-1 siRNA-treated cells compared to controls. CONCLUSIONS: Downregulation of DJ-1 impairs nuclear translocation of Nrf2, causing decreased antioxidant gene expression and increased oxidative damage. The decline in DJ-1 levels leads to heightened CEC susceptibility to UV-A light by activating p53-dependent apoptosis. Targeting the DJ-1-Nrf2 axis may provide a potential therapeutic approach for enhancing antioxidant defense in corneal endothelial disorders.
Katikireddy KR, Dana R, Jurkunas UV. Differentiation potential of limbal fibroblasts and bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells to corneal epithelial cells. Stem Cells. 2014;32 (3) :717-29.Abstract
The cornea is covered by a stratified epithelium that is renewed by stem cells located in the peripheral region of the cornea known as the limbus. This stroma of the limbus contains stromal keratocytes that, when expanded in culture, are termed limbal fibroblasts (LFs). It is thought that LFs exhibit similar characteristics to bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (BM MSCs) and help maintain the epithelial stem cell phenotype in the limbal region. In this study, we aimed at reprogramming stage-specific embryonic antigen-4 (SSEA4+) LFs and BM MSCs into corneal epithelial lineage using a three-dimensional culture system and embryonic stem cell medium. After enrichment, SSEA4+ cells showed a higher level of stem cell marker expression such as Sox2, Oct4, Nanog, Rex1, ABCG2, and TRA-1-60, and colony-forming efficiency than did SSEA4- cells. SSEA4+, as compared to SSEA4- cells, had a greater propensity to form spheres that, in turn, were induced into ectodermal lineage and further differentiated into functional corneal epithelium. Results show that LFs were similar to BM MSCs in marker profiles, and together with the differences noted between SSEA4+ and SSEA4- cells, point to LFs' being tissue-specific MSCs. However, LFs showed a greater potential for differentiation into corneal epithelium, indicating the potential importance of tissue-specific adult progenitors in their reprogramming capacity into cells of interest. This study opens a new avenue for investigating the molecular mechanism involved in maintaining a limbal stem cell niche and thus a potentially important clinical application to treat corneal epithelial stem cell loss.
2013
Zhang X, Igo RP, Fondran J, Mootha VV, Oliva M, Hammersmith K, Sugar A, Lass JH, Iyengar SK. Association of smoking and other risk factors with Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy severity and corneal thickness. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013;54 (8) :5829-35.Abstract
PURPOSE: We investigated effects of smoking and other risk factors on the development of advanced Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) and on central corneal thickness (CCT). METHODS: Eyes from Caucasian probands, affected and unaffected family members, and unrelated controls matched for age from the FECD Genetics Multi-Center Study (n = 2044 subjects) were examined. Univariate and multivariate models, adjusted for family correlations, were used to determine the effect of smoking, sex, diabetes, and age on FECD case/control status and CCT. RESULTS: In a multivariate model, sex and smoking were associated significantly with advanced FECD (grades 4-6) development (P = 0.016 and P = 0.047, respectively). Female sex increased odds by 34%. Smoking increased odds by 30%. In a multivariate model, diabetes was associated with an increase of 9.1 μm in average CCT (P = 0.021). Female sex was associated significantly with a decrease in average CCT by 6.9 μm (P = 0.015). Smoking had no significant effect on CCT in any model. As shown previously, advanced FECD was associated with large increases in CCT (31.4-94.2 μm). CONCLUSIONS: Smoking was associated with an increased risk of advanced FECD and self-reported diabetes was associated with increased CCT. Further study of the impact of smoking and diabetes on FECD development and changes in corneal thickness is warranted.
Hamill CE, Schmedt T, Jurkunas U. Fuchs endothelial cornea dystrophy: a review of the genetics behind disease development. Semin Ophthalmol. 2013;28 (5-6) :281-6.Abstract
Fuchs dystrophy represents the most common form of endothelial dystrophy and is a significant cause of visual impairment. The cause of Fuchs dystrophy is a complicated combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Understanding the underlying causes of the disease can potentially lead to new medical treatments preventing loss of vision.
Verhoeven VJM, Hysi PG, Wojciechowski R, Fan Q, Guggenheim JA, Höhn R, Macgregor S, Hewitt AW, Nag A, Cheng C-Y, et al. Genome-wide meta-analyses of multiancestry cohorts identify multiple new susceptibility loci for refractive error and myopia. Nat Genet. 2013;45 (3) :314-8.Abstract
Refractive error is the most common eye disorder worldwide and is a prominent cause of blindness. Myopia affects over 30% of Western populations and up to 80% of Asians. The CREAM consortium conducted genome-wide meta-analyses, including 37,382 individuals from 27 studies of European ancestry and 8,376 from 5 Asian cohorts. We identified 16 new loci for refractive error in individuals of European ancestry, of which 8 were shared with Asians. Combined analysis identified 8 additional associated loci. The new loci include candidate genes with functions in neurotransmission (GRIA4), ion transport (KCNQ5), retinoic acid metabolism (RDH5), extracellular matrix remodeling (LAMA2 and BMP2) and eye development (SIX6 and PRSS56). We also confirmed previously reported associations with GJD2 and RASGRF1. Risk score analysis using associated SNPs showed a tenfold increased risk of myopia for individuals carrying the highest genetic load. Our results, based on a large meta-analysis across independent multiancestry studies, considerably advance understanding of the mechanisms involved in refractive error and myopia.
Cheng C-Y, Schache M, Ikram KM, Young TL, Guggenheim JA, Vitart V, Macgregor S, Verhoeven VJM, Barathi VA, Liao J, et al. Nine loci for ocular axial length identified through genome-wide association studies, including shared loci with refractive error. Am J Hum Genet. 2013;93 (2) :264-77.Abstract
Refractive errors are common eye disorders of public health importance worldwide. Ocular axial length (AL) is the major determinant of refraction and thus of myopia and hyperopia. We conducted a meta-analysis of genome-wide association studies for AL, combining 12,531 Europeans and 8,216 Asians. We identified eight genome-wide significant loci for AL (RSPO1, C3orf26, LAMA2, GJD2, ZNRF3, CD55, MIP, and ALPPL2) and confirmed one previously reported AL locus (ZC3H11B). Of the nine loci, five (LAMA2, GJD2, CD55, ALPPL2, and ZC3H11B) were associated with refraction in 18 independent cohorts (n = 23,591). Differential gene expression was observed for these loci in minus-lens-induced myopia mouse experiments and human ocular tissues. Two of the AL genes, RSPO1 and ZNRF3, are involved in Wnt signaling, a pathway playing a major role in the regulation of eyeball size. This study provides evidence of shared genes between AL and refraction, but importantly also suggests that these traits may have unique pathways.
Amparo F, Sadrai Z, Jin Y, Alfonso-Bartolozzi B, Wang H, Shikari H, Ciolino JB, Chodosh J, Jurkunas U, Schaumberg DA, et al. Safety and efficacy of the multitargeted receptor kinase inhibitor pazopanib in the treatment of corneal neovascularization. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013;54 (1) :537-44.Abstract
PURPOSE: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of topical pazopanib in the treatment of corneal neovascularization (CNV). METHODS: Twenty eyes of 20 patients with stable CNV were enrolled in a prospective, open label, noncomparative study and treated with topical pazopanib 0.5% for 3 weeks, and followed for 12 weeks. The primary endpoint was to determine the tolerability and safety of topical pazopanib in the treatment of CNV defined by the occurrence of ocular and systemic adverse events during the study. The secondary endpoint was to evaluate the effect of topical pazopanib on the reduction of (1) neovascular area (NA), defined as the area of the corneal vessels themselves, (2) invasion area (IA), defined as the fraction of the total cornea into which the vessels extend, (3) vessel length (VL), defined as the mean measurement of the extent of vessels from end to end, and (4) vessel caliber (VC), defined as the mean diameter of the corneal vessels. RESULTS: There were no severe adverse events following the use of topical pazopanib. Compared with the baseline visit, NA and VL showed a statistically significant decrease at week 3 (P = 0.02 and 0.01, respectively); and NA, IA, and VL statistically significantly decreased at week 12 (P = 0.03, 0.04, and <0.01, respectively). Visual acuity maintained without changes after the 12 week follow-up. CONCLUSIONS: This preliminary study suggests that topical treatment with pazopanib 0.5% is safe, well tolerated, and may have a role as an alternative for the treatment of CNV (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01257750).
Amparo F, Dastjerdi MH, Okanobo A, Ferrari G, Smaga L, Hamrah P, Jurkunas U, Schaumberg DA, Dana R. Topical interleukin 1 receptor antagonist for treatment of dry eye disease: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2013;131 (6) :715-23.Abstract
IMPORTANCE: The immunopathogenic mechanisms of dry eye disease (DED), one of the most common ophthalmic conditions, is incompletely understood. Data from this prospective, double-masked, randomized trial demonstrate that targeting interleukin 1 (IL-1) by topical application of an IL-1 antagonist is efficacious in significantly reducing DED-related patient symptoms and corneal epitheliopathy. OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the safety and efficacy of treatment with the topical IL-1 receptor antagonist anakinra (Kineret; Amgen Inc) in patients having DED associated with meibomian gland dysfunction. DESIGN AND SETTING: Prospective phase 1/2, randomized, double-masked, vehicle-controlled clinical trial. PARTICIPANTS: Seventy-five patients with refractory DED. INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomized to receive treatment with topical anakinra, 2.5% (n = 30), anakinra, 5% (n = 15), or vehicle (1% carboxymethylcellulose) (n = 30) 3 times daily for 12 weeks. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Primary outcomes were corneal fluorescein staining (CFS), complete bilateral CFS clearance, dry eye-related symptoms as measured by the Ocular Surface Disease Index, tear film breakup time, and meibomian gland secretion quality. RESULTS: Topical anakinra was well tolerated compared with vehicle, with no reports of serious adverse reactions attributable to the therapy. After 12 weeks of therapy, participants treated with anakinra, 2.5%, achieved a 46% reduction in their mean CFS score (P = .12 compared with vehicle and P < .001 compared with baseline); participants treated with anakinra, 5%, achieved a 17% reduction in their mean CFS score (P = .88 compared with vehicle and P = .33 compared with baseline); and patients treated with vehicle achieved a 19% reduction in their mean CFS score (P = .11). Complete bilateral CFS clearance was noted in 8 of 28 patients (29%) treated with anakinra, 2.5%, vs in 2 of 29 patients (7%) treated with vehicle (P = .03). By week 12, treatment with anakinra, 2.5%, and treatment with anakinra, 5%, led to significant reductions in symptoms of 30% and 35%, respectively (P = .02 and P = .01, respectively, compared with vehicle); treatment with vehicle led to a 5% reduction in symptoms. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: Treatment with topical anakinra, 2.5%, for 12 weeks was safe and significantly reduced symptoms and corneal epitheliopathy in patients with DED. These data suggest that the use of an IL-1 antagonist may have a role as a novel therapeutic option for patients with DED. TRIAL REGISTRATION clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00681109.
Schrems-Hoesl LM, Schrems WA, Cruzat A, Shahatit BM, Bayhan HA, Jurkunas UV, Hamrah P. Cellular and subbasal nerve alterations in early stage Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy: an in vivo confocal microscopy study. Eye (Lond). 2013;27 (1) :42-9.Abstract
PURPOSE: To analyze the morphology and density of corneal epithelial cells, keratocytes, and subbasal nerves, in patients with early stage Fuchs' endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) by in vivo confocal microscopy (IVCM). METHODS: IVCM (Confoscan 4, Nidek, Inc.) of the central cornea was performed in 30 corneas of 30 patients with early stage FECD and 13 corneas of 13 normal controls. Images were analyzed for morphology and density of the superficial and basal epithelial cells, keratocyte density, endothelial cell density (ECD), as well as subbasal corneal nerve parameters. Central corneal thickness (CCT) was measured in all patients and normals by ultrasound pachymetry. RESULTS: The ECD was significantly lower (-45.5%, P<0.001) in FECD patients as compared with controls. Total number of nerves and main nerve trunks were significantly reduced (-46.3%, P<0.001; -39.7%, P<0.001) in patients with FECD. Posterior keratocyte density was significantly higher in FECD patients (P<0.001). Significant inverse correlations were found between CCT and total number of nerves (r=-0.69, P<0.001), CCT and main nerve trunks (-0.47, P=0.016), as well as CCT and total nerve length (r=-0.62, P=0.006). Significant correlation was found between ECD and total number of nerves (r=0.44, P=0.012) as well as between ECD and main nerve trunks (r=0.65, P<0.001). CONCLUSIONS: IVCM demonstrates alterations in corneal innervation in patients with early stage FECD, suggesting a potential role of corneal nerves in the pathogenesis of FECD. Additional studies are required to investigate whether subbasal nerve alterations are caused by nonspecific corneal edema, from FECD-induced decrease in ECD, or potentially leading to loss of endothelial cells.
Jašinskas V, Rudalevičius P, Miliauskas A, Milčius D, Jurkūnas UV. Keratoprosthesis surgery as an alternative to keratoplasty. Medicina (Kaunas). 2013;49 (6) :291-9.Abstract
Corneal transplant surgery after chemical or thermal burns has a very low success rate. Vision in these patients can be restored by using an artificial cornea (keratoprosthesis). In this report, we present 5 clinical cases of implanting a fresh corneal graft with Boston type 1 keratoprosthesis in patients with corneas inappropriate for standard corneal transplantation. The mean follow-up was 26.4 months (range, 12 to 36 months; SD, 13.1). The main measures of outcomes were visual acuity and keratoprosthesis stability. At least 1 year after the operation (5 eyes), vision acuity was >0.1 in 100% of the eyes and >0.4 in 50% of the eyes. Retention of the initial keratoprosthesis was 100%. The results of this study seem to be similar to those reported internationally. The anatomical and visual functions of the eyes were stable after keratoprosthesis implantation, though for a longer follow-up period, additional surgical procedures may be required.
Ziaei A, Schmedt T, Chen Y, Jurkunas UV. Sulforaphane decreases endothelial cell apoptosis in fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy: a novel treatment. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2013;54 (10) :6724-34.Abstract
PURPOSE: Fuchs endothelial corneal dystrophy (FECD) is an oxidative stress disorder that leads to age-related and gradual loss of corneal endothelial cells resulting in corneal edema and loss of vision. To date, other than surgical intervention, there are no treatment options for patients with FECD. We have shown that in FECD, there is a deficiency in nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)-regulated antioxidant defense due to decreased Nrf2 nuclear translocation and activation of antioxidant response element (ARE). In this study, we used sulforaphane (SFN) and D3T to investigate a strategy of targeting Nrf2-ARE in FECD. METHODS: FECD and normal ex vivo corneas and human corneal endothelial cell lines were pretreated with SFN or D3T and exposed to oxidative stress with tert-Butyl hydroperoxide (tBHP). Apoptosis was detected with TUNEL. Cellular localization of Nrf2 and p53 was assessed by immunohistochemistry. Effect of SFN was determined by using DCFDA assay, Western blot and real-time PCR. RESULTS: After pretreatment with SFN, oxidative stress was induced with tBHP. In ex vivo FECD specimens, SFN decreased CEC apoptosis by 55% in unstressed group and by 43% in tBHP-treated specimens. SFN enhanced nuclear translocation of Nrf2 in FECD specimens and decreased p53 staining under oxidative stress. Pretreatment with SFN enhanced cell viability by decreasing intracellular reactive oxygen species production. Upregulation of Nrf2 levels led to increased synthesis of DJ-1, heme oxygenase 1, and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide quinone oxidoreductase-1. SFN significantly upregulated major ARE-dependent antioxidants and ameliorated oxidative stress-induced apoptosis in FECD. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that targeting Nrf2-ARE pathway may arrest degenerative cell loss seen in FECD.
2012
Schmedt T, Silva MM, Ziaei A, Jurkunas U. Molecular bases of corneal endothelial dystrophies. Exp Eye Res. 2012;95 (1) :24-34.Abstract
The phrase "corneal endothelial dystrophies" embraces a group of bilateral corneal conditions that are characterized by a non-inflammatory and progressive degradation of corneal endothelium. Corneal endothelial cells exhibit a high pump site density and, along with barrier function, are responsible for maintaining the cornea in its natural state of relative dehydration. Gradual loss of endothelial cells leads to an insufficient water outflow, resulting in corneal edema and loss of vision. Since the pathologic mechanisms remain largely unknown, the only current treatment option is surgical transplantation when vision is severely impaired. In the past decade, important steps have been taken to understand how endothelial degeneration progresses on the molecular level. Studies of affected multigenerational families and sporadic cases identified genes and chromosomal loci, and revealed either Mendelian or complex disorder inheritance patterns. Mutations have been detected in genes that carry important structural, metabolic, cytoprotective, and regulatory functions in corneal endothelium. In addition to genetic predisposition, environmental factors like oxidative stress were found to be involved in the pathogenesis of endotheliopathies. This review summarizes and crosslinks the recent progress on deciphering the molecular bases of corneal endothelial dystrophies.

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