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The goal of our vascular mechanobiology lab is to integrate the principles of biology and engineering to develop effective therapies for vision-threatening diseases, specifically diabetic retinopathy (DR) and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Currently, DR and AMD are clinically managed only in their advanced stages that are marked by excessive multiplication and leakiness of blood vessels in the inner and outer retina, respectively. However, there is growing recognition that more effective treatment of these conditions is possible by tackling them in the early stages when these blood vessels degenerate.

We are taking a multidisciplinary approach to understand and prevent this early loss of blood vessels in diabetes and aging. Integrating the principles of vascular biology, mechanobiology, inflammation, and bioengineering, our work has introduced a new paradigm that implicates vascular ‘stiffness’ as a crucial determinant of vascular degeneration associated with early DR and AMD. Our ongoing studies aim to identify the factors that alter vascular stiffness in the eye and uncover the mechanobiological mechanisms by which altered stiffness causes vascular loss in diabetes and aging. These studies, performed in collaboration with ophthalmologists and funded by the National Eye Institute/NIH, have the potential to identify new classes of drugs that restore normal vascular stiffness and function in the eye and thereby block DR and AMD progression in their early stages.