Ongoing Research in the Kazlauskas Lab
After a multi-decade period in academia Dr. Kazlauskas closed his research lab at the Schepens Eye Research Institute/Harvard Medical School to transition to F. Hofmann-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland, where he joined the Department of Ophthalmology and contributed to the drug development process. In 2017 Dr. Kazlauskas re-started academic research focused on improving current approaches to manage patients with diabetic retinopathy.
Pharmacosignaling in PDR
The goal of this project is to elucidate the molecular basis of anti-VEGF’s benefit in patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR). The clinical observation that neutralizing VEGF reduces retinal edema and improves visual acuity in most patients, motivates us to investigate the underlying mechanism of this phenomenon. To this end we are first identifying changes in gene expression and signaling events that are associated with anti-VEGF treatment in patients. The next step is to determine which of these changes are responsible for the therapeutic benefit. These discoveries will guide the design of alternative therapies for patients that do not fully benefit from existing anti-VEGFs. Furthermore, we will develop biomarkers that will improve our ability to diagnose susceptibility, monitor both disease progression, and the efficacy of intervention.
Targeting oxidative stress to prevent DR
Diabetes increases oxidative stress, which in endothelial cells compromises their barrier function and thereby contributes to diabetic retinopathy (DR). We are investigating diabetes-driven redox dysfunction in distinct subcellular compartments of endothelial cells in order to learn how to preserve barrier function of the retinal vasculature in patients who develop diabetes.
Our lab consists of a principal investigator and a highly motivated and enthusiastic research team: two postdoctoral fellows, a graduate student, a clinical research coordinator, and two medical students.
ANDRIUS KAZLAUSKAS, PHD
Andrius Kazlauskas, PhD is a vascular biologist seeking to understand the pathogenesis of blinding eye diseases. He received his PhD in Chemistry from Cleveland State University, and was a postdoc at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, where he investigated signaling pathways by which receptor tyrosine kinase initiated cell proliferation in the context of cancer. As a faculty member at the University of Colorado and then Harvard Medical School, Dr. Kazlauskas interrogated signaling events underlying pathogenesis of cancer and retinal disorders such as proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR), age-related macular degeneration and proliferative vitreoretinopathy. Dr. Kazlauskas obtained first-hand experience and insight in translational research while working in the Ophthalmology Department of F. Hoffman-La Roche in Basel, Switzerland. He returned to academia to elucidate signaling networks responsible for pathogenesis, and how therapeutic intervention rewires them.
YUERU LI (RURU), PHD
Ruru completed her Ph.D at Auburn University. She is currently investigating how anti-VEGF rewires the signaling network in pathological blood vessels isolated from patients with PDR.
BASMA BACCOUCHE, PHD
Basma completed her PhD at Carthage University, Tunisia. She is evaluating changes in gene expression and their contribution to VEGF and anti-VEGF control of permeability in high glucose cultured human retinal endothelial cells.
ANARA SERIKBAEVA, MSC
Anara completed her MSc degree at Nazarbayev University, Kazakhstan. The goal of her project is to durably (via gene therapy) overcome diabetes-induced angiogenic dysfunction that is responsible for diabetic retinopathy.
BARBARA SIEDLECKI, RN, MA
Clinical Research Coordinator
Barbara graduated from SUNY Downstate Medical Center and is a licensed RN. She received a MA degree in Nursing Organization and Leadership from Columbia University. She previously worked at Columbia University Medical Center as the Cochlear Implant Coordinator and participated in hearing loss research. She coordinates the clinical research on vision loss.
Mark completed his BS degree at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is now an M1 at UIC’s College of Medicine. He is currently investigating how gene expression contributes toward oxidative stress in retinal endothelial cells leading to diabetic retinopathy with the goal of developing tools to alter expression and determine its effects on the pathogenesis of retinopathy.
NORMA DEL RISCO
Norma completed her BA in Biochemistry at Judson University. She is currently working towards understanding the oxidative stress induced by proliferative diabetic retinopathy.