Dr. Bennett is a neuro-ophthalmologist interested in ocular inflammation. One of his research interests is Optic Neuritis (ON). He is attempting to identify the primary target of the humoral immune response in ON and MS. His laboratory utilizes a RT-PCR protocol to amplify the expressed variable-region sequences of single B-lymphocytes and plasma cells isolated from ON CSF by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. The B-lymphocyte and plasma cell heavy- and light-chain pairings found in vivo are reconstituted in vitro to produce a panel of recombinant monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) whose specificity is determined by immunocytochemistry, immunoblotting, and screening of white matter and random peptide expression libraries. Since many patients with ON do not develop MS, these studies will allow identification of clinical and molecular risk factors that may point to the ultimate cause of human demyelinating disease and allow physicians to identify at-risk individuals, to diagnose MS at the earliest stage of disease and to treat patients with therapies designed to modify or even cure disease.
Dr. Bennett also studies Occult Chorioretinal (OC) Disorder. Acute zonal occult outer retinopathy, multiple evanescent white dot syndrome, acute macular neuroretinopathy, acute idiopathic blind spot enlargement syndrome, multifocal choroiditis, punctate inner choroidopathy and diffuse subretinal fibrosis syndrome are a group of chorioretinal inflammatory disorders of unknown etiology that mimic optic neuropathy. These disorders possess common clinical features, and affected individuals may evolve from one condition to another. Dr. Bennett’s laboratory has identified clones in a human uveoretinal cDNA expression library and a random peptide library whose products react with serum or immunoglobulins from OC patients. Using molecular biologic techniques, the lab screens candidate antigens with sera from OC and control patients to characterize disease-relevant clones. Identification of OC-specific markers will help classify occult chorioretinal disorders as a specific nosologic entity.