Dr. Kip Connor received a B.S. in Biology and Biochemistry from American International College before going on to receive his M.S. and Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from Albany Medical College. As a post doctorate, Dr. Connor was a fellow in the Opthalmology department of Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School investigating the role of w-3 PUFAs on vessel loss, vessel re-growth, and neovascular disease. He then went on to become an Instructor at Harvard Medical School, eventually becoming an Assistant Professor.
As a Research Associate at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Dr. Connor’s laboratory is currently focused on the role of immunity and inflammation using animal models of ocular diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, retinopathies (diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity) and neurodegeneration that can occur as a result of retinal detachment.
One area of investigation is concentrated on the role of lipid biometabolites in their regulation of inflammation during neovascular diseases. This is building on his previous work linking omega-3s to the resolution of pathological blood vessel growth, a hallmark of late stage (wet) AMD. The current work is designed to characterize the role of omega-3 LCPUFAs and their downstream actions in AMD disease pathology. Given that LCPUFA tissue status is dependent on dietary intake and the relatively low omega-3 LCPUFA intake in Western diets, these nutrients are reasonable targets for AMD prevention and intervention therapy.
The other arm of the laboratories work seeks to assess the role of the complement system in different ocular disease pathologies (retinopathies and in neurodegeneration). The complement system is an intricate innate immune surveillance pathway that is able to discriminate between healthy host tissue, diseased host tissue, apoptotic cells and foreign invaders while modulating the elimination and repair of host tissue accordingly. Consisting of serum and tissue proteins, membrane-bound receptors, and a number of regulatory proteins, the complement system is a hub-like network that is tightly connected to other systems; it comprises three key pathways: the classical, lectin and alternative pathways. Within the ocular microenvironment the alternative complement pathway exhibits low levels of constitutive activation to ensure the intermittent probing of host self cells, which express inhibitors of complement for protection from activation.
In addition, Dr. Connor is teaching first year medical school students case studies as a tutorial leader and will continue as a faculty member of the new Foundations Curriculum at Harvard Medical School. These cases facilitate discussion on the translation of current scientific concepts to patient diagnoses in the clinic.