New Grant to Study Autoimmune Condition that Causes Blindness

Posterior uveitis is inflammation of the back part of the uvea, a layer of tissue beneath the white of the eye. A common cause of blindness, the disease can be the result of autoimmune disorders, which occur when the immune system sends out T cells to attack and destroy healthy tissue.

Feng Lin, PhD, of the Department of Immunology, led pilot studies on autoimmune posterior uveitis that suggested a cell surface receptor found on T cells called CD6 is a key regulator in the development of the disease, and that anti-CD6 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), or laboratory-produced molecules that attach to CD6, could be an effective avenue for treatment. Dr. Lin recently received a five-year, $1.9 million R01 grant from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health to further clarify the role of CD6 in autoimmune posterior uveitis in mouse models.

Using unique preclinical models developed by Dr. Lin’s team and his collaborators, the researchers will investigate the development of autoimmune posterior uveitis by studying how CD6 regulates autoreactive T cells, which are T cells that attack healthy tissue. They will also study the effectiveness of CD6-targeted mAbs in amending the damaging effects of the disease. With these studies, Dr. Lin hopes to lay the foundation for CD6-targeted mAbs as a new therapy for treating the disease and accompanying blindness.

Dr. Lin joined Cleveland Clinic in 2013. He is an expert in the study of innate immunity and complement activation in a wide range of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and age-related macular degeneration, as well as allograft (transplant) rejection.