Research Title: Corneal and conjunctival epithelial dendritic cells in ocular allergy using in vivo confocal microscopy
Ocular allergy is an inflammatory reaction of the ocular surface resulting from a hypersensitivity reaction of the external ocular adnexa to environmental allergens. The prevalence of ocular allergies ranges from 18 to 30% across the world. Severe ocular allergies can result in blindness and more mild disease results in bothersome signs and symptoms reduced quality of life and posts a significant societal economic burden.
Recent studies have uncovered an important role for the ocular surface dendritic cells (DC) in the pathogenesis of allergic eye disease. DC are a subtype of immune cell which play a pivotal role in the ocular surface defence system. They capture and process antigens and migrate from the affected tissue (for example, cornea) to the lymph nodes through lymphatic vessels; they present antigens to T cells for the initiation of immune response.
DC are known to reside in the cornea and conjunctiva. Increased DC density and morphology in diseased eyes can be a sign of inflammation or immune response, but the role of DC in ocular allergy is not well established. Three studies to date have assessed corneal and conjunctival epithelial DC in the active phase of VKC and all report increased density of epithelial DC in the central and far peripheral cornea, limbus, and bulbar and tarsal conjunctiva. However, density of epithelial DC during the more common and milder forms of allergy including SAC and PAC has not been investigated.
Corneal nerves are an essential component for the maintenance of corneal homeostasis and DC help to limit corneal inflammation. Reduced corneal nerve density has been reported in patients with severe forms of ocular allergy such as AKC and VKC. Corneal nerves are affected in milder forms of ocular allergy including SAC and PAC. Nerve damage could be related to the level of inflammation. A relationship between the nervous and immune systems of the ocular surface has been reported in some ocular and systemic diseases, but not during ocular allergy.
Hence the aim of this research is:
Characterising ocular surface DC (distribution, density, morphology, and relationship to nerve) in active and silent phases of mild and severe forms of ocular allergy and compare to non-allergic controls.
Zahra Tajbakhsh received her BOptom degree from Iran and completed her Master of science in optometry in 2012 at Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Science, Tehran, Iran. She recruited as a head of optometry clinic at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences and Salouti Eye Clinic, focusing specifically on keratoconus patients, ocular surface diseases and refractive surgery candidates. She started her PhD in semester 2/2017 in School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW, Sydney, her PhD aims to explore dendritic cells in ocular allergy. Zahra is an IMNIS mentee of Med Tech-Pharma Program NSW and one of the inaugural PhD champions of UNSW Woman in Math and Science
BOptom, Zahedan University of Medical Science, Zahedan, Iran, 2007
Master of Science in Optometry, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Science, Tehran, Iran, 2012
PhD student at School of Optometry and Vision Science, 2017-
SEMO 2018 in Melbourne, Heidelberg Engineering Travel Award,2018
TFS scholarship from University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia to study towards PhD,2017
President of Prevention of Visual Impairment Seminar, Shiraz, Iran, 2014
Tajbakhsh Z; Chao C; Mobeen R; Golebiowski B; Stapleton F; Jalbert I, 2019, 'Development of a novel corneal epithelial dendritic cell morphology grading scale', in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Vancouver, Canada, presented at ARVO, Vancouver, Canada, 28 April - 02 May 2019
Tajbakhsh Z; Kolanu S; Jalbert I; Stapleton F; Golebiowski B, 2018, 'Corneal epithelial dendritic cells density and morphology in ocular allergy', in Corneal epithelial dendritic cells density and morphology in ocular allergy, 15th Scientific and Educators’ Meeting in Optometry, Melbourne, presented at 15th Scientific and Educators Meeting in Optometry, Melbourne, 05 - 06 April 2018
Razeghinejad MR; Nowroozzadeh MH; Tajbakhsh Z, Ghate D, Havens SJ, Gulati V, 2016, The water drinking test revisited: An analysis of test results in subjects with glaucoma, American glaucoma society 26th annual meeting (AGS), USA, 2016
Tajbakhsh Z; Keshtkar M; Heidari J, 2014, Massive paediatric eye disease screening among first year school children in Iran, Shiraz Province, The joint meeting of American Association of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus(AAPOS-JAPAN), Japanese Association of Paediatric Ophthalmology(JAPO,39th annual),Japanese Association of Strabismus and Amblyopia(JASA,70th annual), Japan, Kyoto, 2014
Keshtkar M; Tajbakhsh Z; Heidari J, 2014, Paediatric eye screening program in southern part of Iran, Shiraz Province, The joint meeting of American Association of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus(AAPOS-JAPAN), Japanese Association of Paediatric Ophthalmology(JAPO,39th annual),Japanese Association of Strabismus and Amblyopia(JASA,70th annual), Japan, Kyoto, 2014
Heidari J; Tajbakhsh Z; Keshtkar M, 2014, Spectacle acceptance rate among school children with refractive error; an experience from Shiraz, southern part of Iran, The joint meeting of American Association of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus(AAPOS-JAPAN), Japanese Association of Paediatric Ophthalmology(JAPO,39th annual),Japanese Association of Strabismus and Amblyopia(JASA,70th annual), Japan, Kyoto, 2014
AFFILIATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS
Student member of Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, ARVO
Student member of Cornea and Contact Lens Society of Australia
Board member of Fars Optometry Association, Shiraz, Iran 2012 – 2017
Membership of Iran Optometry Association, Tehran, Iran
Membership of Fars Optometry Association, Shiraz, Iran