The Bernstein Laboratory

Photo of Paul S. Bernstein, M.D., Ph.D.

Paul S. Bernstein joined the faculty of the Moran Eye Center of the University of Utah in 1995, where he currently divides his time equally between basic science retina research and a clinical practice devoted to medical and surgical treatment of disease of the retina and vitreous, with special emphasis on macular and retinal degenerations. His academic training at Harvard University included a summa cum laude undergraduate degree in chemistry, a Ph.D. with Robert Rando, and an M.D. from the Division of Health Sciences and Technology, and a joint program between Harvard Medical School and MIT. He did a post-doctoral fellowship with Dr. Dean Bok in retinal cell biology and a residency in ophthalmology at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute.

Photo of the Bernstein Laboratory macular pigment measurement devices.

Bernstein Laboratory macular
pigment measurement

The Bernstein Laboratory explores the biochemistry and biophysics of nutritional interventions against inherited and acquired ocular disorders. His National Eye Institute funded 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 University of Utah Physics Department, he has developed instrumentation to non-invasively measure carotenoid levels 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 in consumer use world-wide. Dr. Bernstein’s Foundation Fighting Blindness research is devoted to the identification of genes associated with macular dystrophies and degenerations. He and his colleagues have helped to define the role of the ABCR and ELOVL4 genes in macular disease, and he has recently been able to demonstrate for the first time 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. Dr. Bernstein has authored over fifty peer reviewed research articles and reviews as well as six book chapters, and he has served as a reviewer for numerous journals, foundations, and institutes.

Education: M.D., Ph.D., Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA

Academic Appointments: Professor and Associate Director of Research; Mary H. Boesche Professor Of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Photo of the molecular visualization mapped onto the ultrastructure of a degenerating retina.

Molecular visualization mapped onto the ultrastructure of a degenerating retina.

Patient Care Significance

Retinal image of a patient with Stargardt macular dystrophy.

Retinal image of a patient
with Stargardt macular

Dr. Bernstein’s research has helped to establish the importance of lutein and zeaxanthin omega-3 fatty acids in the maintenance of macular health. He is currently the Moran Eye Center principal investigator for the National Eye Institute’s AREDS II study, a nationwide multi-center clinical trial to establish definitive recommendations for nutritional interventions against age-related macular degenerations. In addition, his work on the mechanisms of action of proteins associated with major inherited form of macular degeneration offers hope that further molecular interventions are possible.

Nutrition and Supplementation and Their Effect on Macular Degeneration

A sample of major publications from the Bernstein Laboratory

Hubbard A.F., Askew E.W., Singh N., Leppert M., Bernstein P.S. (2006). Association of adipose and red blood cell lipids with severity of dominant Stargardt macular dystrophy (STGD3) secondary to an ELOVL4 mutation. Arch Ophthalmol, 124(2), 257-63.

Sharifzadeh M, Bernstein P.S., Gellermann W. (2006). Non-Mydriatic Fluorescence-Based Quantitative Imaging of Human Macular Pigment Distributions. J Opt Soc Am A, in press.

Bhosale P., Larson A.J., Frederick J.M., Southwick K., Thulin C.D., Bernstein P.S. (2004). Identification and characterization of a Pi isoform of glutathione S-transferase (GSTP1) as a zeaxanthin-binding protein in the macula of the human eye. J Biol Chem, 279(47), 49447-54.

Bhosale P., Bernstein P.S. (2005). Synergistic effects of zeaxanthin and its binding protein in the prevention of lipid membrane oxidation. Biochim Biophys Acta, 1740(2), 116-21.

McClane R.W., Gellermann W, Bernstein P.S.: (2006) Method and apparatus for Raman imaging of macular pigments. US Patent No. 7,039,452.