Corneal and Ocular Immunology Unit


Research Overview

Corneal immune cells

The mouse and human cornea contains populations of resident immune cells such as macrophages and dendritic cells. These cells play an important role in generating innate inflammatory responses against microbial pathogens and sterile injurious stimuli.

Toll-like receptor activation in the cornea

Toll-like receptors (TLR) are a class of proteins that recognize exogenous (or endogenous) stimuli such as components of bacteria or viruses. Upon recognition of microbial products such as lipopolysaccharide (cell wall) or unmethylated CpG DNA motifs (bacterial or viral DNA), activation of TLRs in the cornea initiates acute and chronic inflammatory responses characterized by inflammatory cell infiltration and activation.  These inflammatory responses can occur with infection (ie Herpes Simplex virus infection) or in the absence of infection (ie sterile corneal infiltrates in contact lens wearers). The goal of this research is to characterize the main cellular mediators of acute and chronic inflammation in the cornea during TLR-ligand induced corneal inflammation.

Major techniques:

  • In vivo and ex vivo analysis of corneal and retinal inflammation (clinical analysis of corneal haze and thickness, confocal, epifluorescent and light microscopy)
  • Analysis of chemokine and cytokine gene expression and production (qPCR and ELISA)
  • Generation of bone marrow chimeras to study contribution of resident versus infiltrating monocyte-derived cells

Other research interests:

  • Membrane nanotubes in mammalian tissues and their responsiveness to stress signals.
  • Distribution and phenotype of monocyte-derived cells in the mouse choroid plexus and meninges.
  • Responsiveness of corneal nerve-associated macrophages to peripheral injurious stimuli.
  • Retinal and intraocular inflammation as a result of corneal and anterior segment inflammatory events in the mouse eye.


  • Dr Holly Chinnery


  • Prof Paul McMenamin, Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University
  • Dr Laura Downie, Department of Optometry and Vision Sciences, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Mark Whiting, Ophthalmology, St John of God Eye Centre, Geelong, and Corneal Clinic, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, East Melbourne
  • Prof John Forrester, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Aberdeen


This lab has been funded by the NH&MRC since 2013.

Research Projects

This Research Group doesn't currently have any projects

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Chronic disease

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact Lab Director Dr Holly Chinnery

Department / Centre

Optometry and Vision Sciences

Unit / Centre

Corneal and Ocular Immunology Unit

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