About Our Research
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.
He is among the first researchers worldwide to test the early diagnostic capabilities of fluorescence lifetime imaging ophthalmoscopy, a new non-invasive retinal imaging technique known as FLIO.