The immune defense system plays a central and essential role in preventing and curing blinding eye diseases. Key components of the immune defense system of the eye include external factors such as the tears and the outer covering of the eye, filtration mechanisms between the blood and the intraocular compartment, a host of aggressive surveillance cells that eliminate potentially infectious microorganisms, and a dizzying array of molecules that collaborate to protect against disease and assist in resolving and healing damaged ocular tissues.
Bryan M. Gebhardt, Ph.D., is working on the cellular and molecular aspects of the survival of corneal transplants and the immunological resistance to herpes infection of the eye. It is evident that the immune system is a two-edged sword. Although we have known for many years that the immune system is central to resistance to disease and infection, it is also clear that an unregulated immune defense response can result in damage to delicate ocular tissues. Dr. Gebhardt’s work focuses on gaining an understanding of the balance between protection against disease and disease causation by an overreaction of the immune system.