Researchers

The Research Laboratories were designed to encourage cross-talk between Clinique and Laboratory and the basic and translational research among the operating units inside the Foundation, each having as ultimate goal the achievement of results in the prevention, diagnosis and due to "low vision" treatment of eye diseases.

The synergy between basic research and clinical-surgical practice in ophthalmology has always distinguished the scientific activities of our Foundation that, after the Laboratory of the Ocular Surface located the Pole for Advanced Research in Biomedicine and Bioengineering (PRABB) University Biomedical Campus (2007), recently opened the new Research Laboratories at the Presidio Britannico (San Giovanni), in addition to the small laboratory. At the research laboratories works a team of Biologists, Pharmacists, Biotechnologists, Engineers and Ophthalmologists with expertise as to make the majority of the properties of modern scientific equipment which is fitted.

Laboratory purposes

The eyeball can be schematized as having two principal anatomical segments: the anterior segment and the posterior segment. The Anterior Segment of eyeball, the outermost part of the eye, includes the ocular surface (tear film, cornea and conjunctiva), iris, lens and other ocular annexes, while the Posterior segment includes the vitreous body, the retina and the optic nerve. Each Operating Unit (UOS) is specialized in a precise ocular field and requires a continuing knowledge of the mechanisms underlying some eye diseases, for developing new approaches and methods for (early) diagnosis and treatment (pharmacological/surgical). In this context, the Laboratory offers expertise and high technological efficiency to meet the needing of each units, allowing both basic and translational research studies as well as experimental diagnostic approaches.

For its location, the Laboratory at the Polo Britannico represents a point of connection between the various research operating units and at the same time it represents a hub for research and development of new biomedical devices both for sampling or analysis of bioptic samples from outpatient or surgical patients.

Overview of Laboratories

Optical microscopy, both light and epifluorescence, Biochemical-Molecular analysis (conventional tools: spectrophotometry, ELISA/EIA, Western blotting, Zymography, digital flow cytometry, PCR and real-time PCR; chip-arrays: plate reading microarray oligo / protein) and 1D/3D cell cultures allow the study, with a 360° point of view, the pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for the diseases involved in a more or less permanent visual function and to develop new alternative strategies for sampling/diagnosis of the ocular surface and ocular fluids.

Both laboratories, whose purpose is to promote research in ophthalmology, are endowed with the most modern scientific equipment for research in Microscopy, biochemical, molecular and cellular biology.

- Research Laboratories at the Polo Britannico (Via Santo Stefano Rotondo, 6 - San Giovanni - 00184 Rome, Italy)

The laboratory (500 sqm) is specialized in Biochemistry-Molecular and Cellular Research located on level -1 of the British pole and having a direct contact with both Clinique and Surgery of the Foundation. The Laboratory is equipped with all basic equipment, in transmitted light microscopy and epifluorescence and a next-generation HPLC system. The Laboratory strategic position allows to develop an effective cross-talk between Clinical and Laboratory Units.

- Laboratory of the Ocular Surface at the University Campus Biomedico (Via Alvaro del Portillo 21, Trigoria - 00128 Rome, Italy, Dial +39 06 225 419 196)

It is a small satellite Laboratory (50 sqm) located in a university setting and devoted mainly to the study of the ocular surface through surveys of biopsy specimens. Among the available instrumentation: a digital platform for chip-based microarray reading (GenePix), a 7-color digital flow cytometer (Miltenyi) and an inverted confocal microscope equipped with three laser with acquisition and analysis system (Nikon). The Laboratory is the result of the precious contribution of Fondazione Roma.

Basic and Translational Research

While basic research is aimed at understanding all the biochemical and molecular aspects characterizing cells of the visual system, translational research represents the " bridge" between basic and clinical research, implying those research produced at the bed of the patient, as stated "from bench-top to the bed-side and vice-versa."

Objectives

Currently, basic research and translational studies are aimed at evaluating:

I. the potential molecular or protein biomarkers of (early) diagnosis, prognosis of disease or monitoring of therapy, in ocular fluids and corneal/conjunctival impression cytologies;

II. the potential role of growth factors / neuropeptides (NGF, TGFβ1, VEGF, VIP / NPY, ...), cytokines / chemokines (MCP1, ... ..), proteolytic enzymes (MMPs, TIMPs, ...), the signaling molecules (NFkB, JNKs , SMADs) and surface/soluble receptors (TLRs, ....) in tissue inflammation, healing/repair and/or tissue remodeling of the visual system and their cooperation both in physiological and pathological conditions, as well as their potential pharmacological modulation.  Allergic conditions, dry eye, glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are the main diseases responsible for visual deficits, known to interfere with or significantly reduce the work activities and in general the quality of life of subjects involved. The knowledge of protein expression profiles and mechanisms of action as well as the development of new methods of early diagnosis or alternative therapeutic strategies to support a prevention are critically required. Inflammation, remodeling and neurodegeneration are a critically implicated. The mechanisms of action of these factors and their possible therapeutic effect are investigated in cell cultures or in animal models, both in physiological and pathological conditions. The mechanisms of action of these factors and their possible therapeutic effects are investigated in cell cultures or in animal models, both at physiological and pathological conditions.

III. development of alternative analysis devices to assist the diagnosis and/or the routine treatment in clinical/surgical practice (see Patent section). In addition, the Laboratory allows a proper support for ocular diagnosis trough the development of alternatives and not invasive tools for sampling ocular fluids/cells (bioptic samples; see Patent section).The opportunity to identify in bioptic samples (by microarray analysis or HPLC evaluation) the expression of specific genes/proteins associated with a given pathological condition – thus avoiding diagnosis by means of  biopsy – would help optimize the early diagnosis of certain pathologies (ocular surface disorders, Glaucoma, Retinitis Pigmentosa), or to make available potential markers for therapeutic monitoring (retinal disorders)..

Application for bioptic samples

  1. Ocular fluids (tear film, aqueous and vitreous humors): biochemical analysis (ELISA / EIA, protein arrays), flow cytometry. Analysis through HPLC.

  2. Impression cytologies and biopsies: basal histology, biochemistry and molecular analysis, protein arrays, flow cytometry, confocal analysis. After cell extraction, development of cell cultures in 1D / 3D for stimulation and/or neutralization studies.

  3. Ocular fluids (Tears, Aqueous and Vitreous) / impression cytologies: development of sampling tools and analytical devices for clinical and surgical practice.

Patents

The laboratory expertise has led to the development of the following devices:

- "Device for the analysis of biological samples"; Inventors: Micera A, Dello Russo C ; Owner. Bietti Foundation; n. 1403765 ​​released Dec 2013 )

- " Device for sampling of the ocular surface by imprinting "; Inventors: Micera A, Zollo L, Ghezzi I, Sgrulletta R, Balzamino BO; Owners: Bietti Foundation and University Biomedical Campus; n.102015000008750 patent application 16 March 2015).


Research Projects