Adjunct Professor, Neurobiology & Anatomy Labs
Adjunct Professor, Pharmacology And Toxicology
Professor, Ophthalmology & Visual Science
Dr. Bernstein’s current research interests are focused on the biochemistry and biophysics of nutritional interventions against inherited and acquired ocular disorders. His laboratory is a leader in the study of the proteins involved in the uptake and stabilization of lutein and zeaxanthin in the human macula. These dietary xanthophyll carotenoids play an important role in protecting the macula from light induced oxidative damage, and high ocular levels are associated with decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration. In collaboration with Dr. Werner Gellermann of the Physics Department, he has developed instrumentation to measure carotenoid levels noninvasively in the eye, skin, and other human tissues using resonance Raman spectroscopy. In addition to its important potential medical uses, this patented technology has been enthusiastically embraced by the nutritional supplementation industry—thousands of these Biophotonic Scanners® are already in consumer use throughout the world. He and his colleagues have helped to define the role of the ABCR, HTRA1, and ELOVL4 genes in macular disease, and he has recently been able to demonstrate that high dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids can protect against dominant Stargardt macular dystrophy (STGD3) in a large Utah family with an ELOVL4 mutation.