Visiting Scholar Lecture: Ocular Innate Immunity: Keeping the Bugs at Bay and the Window to the Soul Clear

Thursday, 23 February, 2017 - 13:15

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Please join us on Thursday 23 February 2017 at 1.15pm to hear Professor Alison McDermott from The Ocular Surface Institute, University of Houston, College of Optometry, Houston, Texas lecture on "Ocular Innate Immunity: Keeping the Bugs at Bay and the Window to the Soul Clear". This lecture is open to all staff, students, and the general public and will be held in the Rupert Myers Theatre, North Wing, Gate 14 Barker Street.

Relevant details are as follows:

Date: Thursday 23 February 2017

Time: 1.15pm - 2.15pm

Location: Rupert Myers Theatre, North Wing, Rupert Myers Building (M15 on campus map)

Presenter: Professor Alison McDermott, The Ocular Surface Institute, University of Houston, College of Optometry, Houston, Texas

Title of Lecture: Ocular Innate Immunity: Keeping the Bugs at Bay and the Window to the Soul Clear

Abstract: Despite exposure to unwashed fingertips and foreign bodies such as contact lenses the eye rarely succumbs to infection. This is in large part attributable to a very robust innate immune system that comprises both physical and chemical defences. Antimicrobial peptides such as defensins and cathelicidins are an important component of the latter. Studies have shown that the cells of the ocular surface are important sources of antimicrobial peptides and that loss of the peptides significantly reduces defence against both bacterial and fungal pathogens. In addition to providing endogenous innate immune protection antimicrobial peptides have significant therapeutic potential for the treatment and prophylaxis of eye infection (microbial keratitis). Here current knowledge on the expression and role of antimicrobial peptides endogenously expressed at the ocular surface (cornea and conjunctiva) will be addressed. Also antimicrobial peptide based topical therapeutics and antimicrobial contact lenses for the treatment of microbial keratitis, a potentially vision threatening corneal infection most commonly associated with contact lens wear, will be discussed.

Short Biography: Dr Alison McDermott is a Professor of Optometry and Vision Sciences at The University of Houston College of Optometry. Dr McDermott received her BSc and PhD in biochemistry from the University of Surrey, and Imperial College, UK, respectively. After post-doctoral positions at Cornell University, USA and McMaster University in Canada she joined the lab of veterinary ophthalmologist Dr Christopher Murphy at the University of Wisconsin Madison and so began her career in eye research. She joined the faculty of the University of Houston College of Optometry in 1998 where she has an active federally funded research lab and teaches professional students of optometry and graduate students. The primary goal of her research program is to gain a better understanding of the ocular surface epithelia at the cellular and molecular level, which will lead to novel treatment strategies for ocular surface inflammatory and infectious disease and wound healing following injury and refractive surgery. The major focus of her research is to investigate the direct antimicrobial and immunomodulatory properties of antimicrobial peptides such as defensins and cathelicidin at the ocular surface. She is also involved in collaborative projects to develop antimicrobial surfaces, including contact lenses.