top of page

Lee Retina Laboratory

at the USC Roski Eye Institute

fundus fade.png

About Us

At the Lee Retina Lab, our dedicated researchers are passionate about saving and restoring vision from retinal diseases such as dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), wet AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and inherited retinal diseases.

Our team developed an ASL-exosome (also known as small extracellular vesicle) system by modifying the exosome surface that actively targets abnormal retinal vasculature applicable in wet AMD and diabetic retinopathy. In prior projects, we demonstrated that intravitreally delivered ASL-exosomes effectively target areas with wet AMD. We are now broadening the application of ASL-exosomes to deliver therapeutic small molecules and small genes in animal models of AMD and diabetic retinopathy.

We also study the natural cargo of exosomes derived from stem cells to develop a cell-free regenerative therapy for retinal degeneration, such as dry AMD and inherited retinal diseases. In order to bring these intraocular exosome therapeutics to the clinic, we also study their safety and any potential immune reactions related to this new therapeutic approach.

Our research team has expertise in exosome recovery, characterization, and bioengineering. We are familiar with various animal models of retinal diseases, including wet and dry AMD, diabetic retinopathy, and inherited retinal diseases, as well as cell culture models essential in developing exosome-based intraocular therapeutics. To optimize our exosome-based intraocular therapeutics, we utilize both conventional and cutting-edge laboratory technologies, including cryo-EM, multi-omics (transcriptomics, proteomics, lipidomics, and metabolomics), Seahorse mitochondrial stress test, mass spectrometry, and single-cell transcriptomics and drug loading to exosomes. We excel in our multi-disciplinary approach, closely working with our expert collaborators in bioengineering, regenerative medicine, and gene therapy.

Statement from Principal Investigator, Sun Young Lee, MD, PhD:

As a retina specialist and surgeon taking care of patients affected by various retinal diseases and experiencing vision loss, I witness firsthand the challenges they face. While some cases can be effectively addressed through surgical or medical interventions, there are often instances where treatment options are limited or nonexistent despite the diseases being well-known. It is in these situations that I feel a deep connection with my patients, walking alongside them in their journey. This profound sense of togetherness and the desire to improve their quality of life motivates me to return to the laboratory as a scientist. In our laboratory meetings, we often discuss with our dedicated lab members and collaborators, striving to deepen our understanding of these diseases and working towards the development of new treatments. My ultimate goal is to eliminate vision loss and improve quality of life through clinical care and vision research by discovering the mechanism of unknown pathophysiology of retinal diseases and developing a new therapy for retinal diseases with limited or no treatments.

bottom of page