Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD
BS 1994, Kakatiya University, India
PhD 2001, University of Minnesota
Post-doctoral Fellowship, 2002-2008 Cornell University Weill Medical College
Instructor, 2008-2010, Cornell University Weill Medical College
The goal of our research is to use cell biology to discover novel therapies for blinding diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This devastating disease robs people of central high-resolution vision and affects over 30 million older adults worldwide. There are currently no effective treatments for the chronic form of AMD called geographic atrophy, which leads to a slow decline in vision in 90% of patients.
We study cells of the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE), the site of the initial insult that eventually leads to vision loss in macular degeneration and other retinal degenerative diseases. A key feature of AMD is the accumulation of cellular debris or garbage within and around the RPE, which can compromise RPE function and induce inflammation to promote disease. We use multiple tools such as high-speed, high-resolution live imaging of healthy and diseased RPE, biochemistry, genetics and cell and molecular biology to follow critical functions in retinal pigment epithelial cells such as cellular clearance (lysosome function, autophagy, secretion of exosomes), organelle biogenesis and intracellular trafficking.