The focus of our laboratory is photoreceptor degeneration, the cause of blinding diseases such as retinitis pigmentosa, which affects approximately 1:3, 500 people worldwide, and age-related macular degeneration, which affects vision in the elderly in as many as 1:3 by the age of 75. Virtually no widely accepted forms of therapy exist for these diseases. We have been involved in several lines of research aimed at modulating the rate of photoreceptor degeneration by both genetic and environmental means; to develop mutant rhodopsin transgenic rat models with which to study various forms of therapy; to study the efficacy of neurotrophic factors in slowing the progression of degeneration; to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of injury-induced protection; to develop gene-based delivery of neurotrophic factors; and to develop gene-based ribozyme therapy for the treatment of dominantly inherited disorders. Much of our current research stems from our original observation that bFGF can slow photoreceptor degeneration in RCS rats with inherited retinal dystrophy, the first such pharmaceutical effect in retinal degenerations, and that various growth factors, neurotrophins and cytokines, can protect photoreceptors from cell death due to excessive light. Most recently, we have been studying the role of the Unfolded Protein Response in inherited and environmentally induced retinal degenerations.