Ellen Cook, PhD
Position title: Emeritus Researcher, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
B.S. 1978, Medical Technology, Louisiana State University
PhD 2003, Animal Health and Biomedical Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Dr. Cook is now retired; she had previously worked with Dr Neal Barney, researching several immunologic areas, including:
(1) Determining if activated human conjunctival mast cells supply sufficient cytokines and other mediators to initiate and direct a well orchestrated trafficking of eosinophils to the ocular surface, facilitate their adhesion, and cause their release of potent affecters of ocular surface damage.
(2) Determining the differences in molecular signaling in patients undergoing seasonal allergic conjunctivitis compared to those with sight threatening disease such as Atopic Keratoconjunctivitis. After activation with anti-IgE or secretagogue, human conjunctival mast cell release of cytokines is evaluated by ELISA, RT-PCR, or micro bead assay. Following treatment with activated supernatants from conjunctival mast cells (identifying important cytokines using blocking antibodies), human conjunctival or corneal epithelial cells, are evaluated by FACS, RT-PCR, and ELISA for production of cell adhesion molecules and eosinophil attracting chemokines. Eosinophil adhesion to these stimulated epithelial cells is measured by eosinophil peroxidase adhesion assays. Following their attachment to epithelial cells, eosinophils are measured for activation by evaluation of oxidative burst and ELISA, for release of potent affecters of epithelial cell damage such as eosinophil cationic protein. These in-vitro results guide evaluation (FACS, RT-PCR) of ocular surface cells (obtained by impression cytology) of patients undergoing an allergic reaction induced by topical provocation with allergen. The goal of this research was to connect the molecular signaling events of cells of the ocular surface to the known pathologic findings of allergic eye diseases, allowing the development of precise strategies for intervention.
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