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A myofibroblast in culture; the actin is shown in red, the proteins as green dots and the nucleus in blue. (image by Edward Boumil, PhD, in the Bernstein lab at Upstate)
Above is a myofibroblast in culture. The actin is shown in red. This is the skeleton, called the cytoskeleton, that keeps the cell’s shape. The green dots are proteins that bind to each other under scarring conditions. The blue is the nucleus. (picture by Edward Boumil, PhD, in the Bernstein lab at Upstate)

Science Is Art: Scarring of the cornea

Corneal scarring is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that 23 million people suffer from unilateral vision loss due to corneal disease.

Audrey Bernstein, PhD (photo by William Mueller)Audrey Bernstein, PhD (photo by William Mueller)

Causes of blindness from corneal disease include infection, inflammation, ulcers and trauma. The cornea refracts light as it enters the eye so that a properly focused image reaches the retina, at the back of the eye.

The normal cornea is transparent, making it an important model system in which to study fibrotic scarring. Corneal scarring results from the persistence of myofibroblasts, cells that excessively contract tissue and secrete disorganized extracellular matrix, the proteins that surround the cells.

Researchers in the lab of Audrey Bernstein, PhD, at Upstate are working on the proteins and molecular pathways that cause the development and persistence of these scarring cells in a healing wound.

Bernstein is an associate professor in the departments of ophthalmology and visual sciences with secondary appointments in biochemistry and molecular biology, and cell and developmental biology.

Upstate Health Magazine

This article appears in the winter 2021 issue of Upstate Health magazine

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