Award winning researcher joins as Hale-Rudd Lecturer in Experimental Ophthalmology

Dr Jose M Romero Hombrebueno

Dr Jose M Romero Hombrebueno has moved from Belfast to Birmingham to join the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing as a Hale-Rudd Lecturer in Experimental Ophthalmology. Dr Hombrebueno's major goal is to understand how mitochondrial dysfunction impacts on eye disease and elucidate novel therapies to stop sight loss.

What attracted you to the University of Birmingham?

The potential for translating my basic research and develop novel therapies for eye disease. In this regard, the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing at the University of Birmingham represents a unique place, since it is supported by a large team of clinicians, healthcare professionals and crucial infrastructure within the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, including the Institute of Translational Medicine and Birmingham Clinical Trials Unit

Can you tell us about your background and research?

As a visual neuroscientist, the goal of my research focus is to understand how mitochondrial dysfunction impacts on eye disease and whether it can be targeted for therapy. Irreversible mitochondrial dysfunction involves a major event in many ocular disorders, including diabetic retinopathy, optic neuropathies, inflammatory and ageing-related disorders. The accumulation of broken mitochondria may pose a severe risk for vision, since 1) damaged mitochondria do not produce energy efficiently and disrupts the power system of the retina and 2) they are a source of toxic waste, which may origin retinal disease.

In the healthy retina, this problem is prevented by tight Mitochondrial Quality Control (MQC), where faulty mitochondria are simply removed and replaced by newly-synthetized functional units. Using appropriate disease models, my research pursues to determine how MQC becomes dysregulated in ocular disease and its contribution to neurovascular degeneration. My main goal focuses in applying this knowledge to develop novel interventional strategies for eye therapy.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement?

Uncovering potential medications for targeting mitochondrial dysfunction and ameliorate the loss of sight in diabetic retinopathy. Currently, this is being proven pre-clinically, but I hope the impact of these medications will be tested soon in the clinic. I also expect to apply this knowledge in other ocular disorders that progress with similar mitochondrial pathophysiology.

What is your motivation for getting up in the morning?

I am focused in understanding how mitochondrial dysfunction contributes to sight loss in blinding diseases associated with ageing, diabetes, inflammation and scarring. Getting fundamental insight for developing novel therapeutics is a major motivation.

What does the future of Inflammation and Ageing look like?

A very promising future, given the interdisciplinary nature of teams that integrate the Institute (basic scientists, clinicians, healthcare professionals, etc.) and the effort of conducting biomedical research towards a clear translational setting. Since this research is maximised and supported by unique infrastructure within the College of Medical and Dental Sciences, I certainly see the Institute delivering important outcomes for improving patients' life quality in the immediate future.

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