The Rex Laboratory

Tonia S. Rex, Ph.D.


Associate Professor


Vanderbilt Eye Institute


Department of Ophthalmology

& Visual Sciences


Vanderbilt University


About the Lab

The Rex laboratory studies mechanisms underlying vision loss in ocular trauma and glaucoma tests the efficacy of neuroprotective therapies. Vision preserving therapies are needed for complex neurodegenerations in which there is no clear genetic cause, such as glaucoma and ocular trauma.

We identified a novel mutation in erythropoietin (EPO) that retains EPO’s neuroprotective activity while attenuating production of red blood cells. This EPO (EPO-R76E) when delivered to glaucomatous mice via virus-mediated gene therapy leads to preservation of the retinal ganglion cell bodies, axons, and vision. We are actively exploring how EPO-R76E prevented degeneration in glaucoma.

In addition, we have generated and characterized a model of ocular trauma induced by an over-pressure air-wave. This injury causes increased oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and delayed vision loss in the retina. Currently there are few treatment options for eye trauma patients. We are investigating the efficacy of several promising therapeutics in our eye trauma model.

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