Dr. Chen’s research focuses on the mechanisms and regulation of lymphatic and blood vessel formation and implications in eye diseases, such as inflammation, transplant rejection, and glaucoma.
Unlike blood vessels which have been studied extensively in the past, lymphatic research represents an explosive field of new discovery in recent years. The lymphatic network penetrates most tissues in the body, and its dysfunctions have been found in a diverse array of disorders, such as cancer metastasis, neurodegeneration, lymphedema, and inflammatory, infectious and immune diseases. The cornea offers an ideal site for lymphatic studies due to its accessible location, transparent nature, and lymphatic-free and -inducible features. Once induced by a pathological insult, corneal lymphatics enhance high volume delivery of antigens and immune cells, which accelerates transplant rejection. Dr. Chen's long-term goal is to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms underlying lymphatic formation and to discover novel therapeutic targets to treat transplant rejection and other lymphatic-related diseases occurring inside and outside the eye.
Dr. Chen's research on glaucoma has led to the novel findings that the Schlemm's canal, a critical structure regulating aqueous humor drainage and intraocular pressure, possesses lymphatic features. She has also reported the presence and function of typical lymphatic vessels in the optic nerve. Further investigation on these novel phenomena promises for divulging new mechanisms and therapeutic strategies for glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the world.