Deborah A. Ferrington, PhDChief Scientific Officer
Doheny Eye Institute
Bachelor of Science
Master of Education
University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Doctor of Philosophy
Department of Biochemistry, University of Kansas
Research in the Ferrington Laboratory is focused on investigating age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the number one cause of blindness among the elderly. There are two clinically distinct forms of the disease, wet AMD and dry AMD. Wet AMD, resulting from abnormal growth of blood vessels into the retina, has several effective treatments available to prevent vision loss. Dry AMD is a progressive disease that culminates in central vision impairment due to the death of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and subsequent loss of the light-sensing photoreceptors in the macula. Currently no treatments are available for dry AMD, which includes more than 80% of AMD patients. Discovering potential targets for therapy and testing promising treatment candidates requires both a clear understanding of the disease mechanism, as well as practical model systems that authentically replicate disease phenotypes.
Our research team has been investigating critical questions driving the field of AMD. What are the cellular changes that occur with aging? What factors “tip the balance” to pathology? How does the cell respond to disease? How can we protect against pathologic changes? To answer these questions, we use tissue and cultured primary retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells from human eyebank donors graded for the presence and severity of AMD. We also use RPE differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC-RPE) generated from both eyebank donors and AMD patients. These model systems allow us to investigate the underlying pathophysiology of AMD and to identify drugs that could be used to treat AMD. Our “systems biology” approach includes coupling biochemical analysis of tissues and cells, molecular and cell biology in the Ferrington laboratory, with work of our multidisciplinary team of collaborators who provide complementary expertise in stem cell biology, global protein analysis using label-free mass spectrometry, and targeted metabolomics.
Nordgaard, C.L., Berg, K.M, Kapphahn, R.J., Reilly, C., Feng, X., Olsen, T.W., Ferrington, DA. Proteomics of the Retinal Pigment Epithelium Reveals Altered Protein Expression at Progressive Stages of Age-related Macular Degeneration. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2006; 47: 815-22.
Nordgaard, C.L., Karunadharma, P.R., Feng, X., Olsen, T.W., Ferrington, D.A. Mitochondrial Proteomics of the Retinal Pigment Epithelium at Progressive Stages of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2008; 49: 2848-55.
Karunadharma P.P., Nordgaard C.L., Olsen T.W., Ferrington D.A. Mitochondrial DNA Damage as a Potential Mechanism for Age-related Macular Degeneration. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2010; 51: 5470-79.
Terluk, M.R., Kapphahn, R.J., Soukup, L.M., Gong, H., Gallardo, C., Monetzuma, S.R., Ferrington, D.A., Investigating mitochondria as a target for treating age-related macular degeneration. J Neuroscience, 2015, 35(18): 7304-11.
Ferrington, D.A., Kapphahn, R.J., Leary, M.M., Atilano, S.R., Terluk, M.R., Karunadharma, P., Chen, G.K., Ratnapriya, R., Swaroop, A., Montezuma, S.R., Kenney, M.C. Increased retinal mtDNA damage in the CFH variant associated with age-related macular degeneration. Exp. Eye Res. 2016, 145: 269-277.
Ratnapriya R, Sosina OA, Starostik MR, Kwicklis M, Kapphahn RJ, Fritsche LG, Walton A, Arvanitis M, Gieser L, Pietraszkiewicz A, Montezuma SR, Chew EY, Battle A, Abecasis GR, Ferrington DA, Chatterjee N, Swaroop A. Retinal transcriptome and eQTL analysis identify genes associated with age-related macular degeneration. Nature Genetics. 2019, 51: 606-610.
Geng Z, Walsh PJ, Truong V, Hill C, Ebeling M, Kapphahn RJ, Montezuma SR, Yuan C, Roehrich H, Ferrington DA, Dutton JR. Generation of retinal pigmented epithelium from iPSCs derived from the conjunctiva of donors with and without age related macular degeneration. PLoS One 2017, 12(3): e0173575
Ebeling MC, Geng Z, Kapphahn RJ, Roehrich H, Montezuma SR, Dutton JR, Ferrington DA. Impaired mitochondrial function in iPSC-retinal pigment epithelium with the complement factor H polymorphism for age-related macular degeneration. Cells 2021, 10,789. Doi: 10.3390/cells10040789.
Ebeling MC, Geng Z, Stahl MR, Kapphahn RJ, Roehrich H, Montezuma SR, Ferrington DA, Dutton JR. Testing Mitochondrial-Targeted Drugs in iPSC-RPE from Patients with Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2022 Jan 4;15(1):62. doi: 10.3390/ph15010062.
Fisher CR, Ebeling MC, Geng Z, Kapphahn RJ, Roehrich H, Montezuma SR, Dutton JR, Ferrington DA. Human iPSC- and Primary-Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells for Modeling Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Antioxidants (Basel). 2022 Mar 22;11(4):605. doi: 10.3390/antiox11040605.
Ebeling MC, Polanco JR, Qu J, Tu C, Montezuma SJ, Ferrington DA. Improving retinal mitochondrial function as a treatment for age-related macular degeneration. Redox Biol. 2020 Jul; 34;101552. Doi: 10.1016/j.redox.2020.101552.
Ferrington DA, Ebeling MC, Kapphahn RJ, Terluk MR, Fisher CR, Polanco JR, Roehrich H, Leary MM, Geng Z, Dutton JR, Montezuma SR. Altered bioenergetics and enhanced resistance to oxidative stress in human retinal pigment epithelial cells from donors with age-related macular degeneration. Redox Biol. 2017, 13: 255-265.
Selected Awards & Honors
2022 Arnold and Mabel Beckman Presidential Endowed Chair
2019-2022 Distinguished McKnight University Professor
2016 – present Executive Board Member, Ryan Initiative for Macular Research
2013-2022 Elaine and Robert Larson Endowed Vision Research Chair
2003-2004 Fesler-Lampert Chair in Aging Research, Center on Aging