Dr. Jeon has a long-standing interest in contractile cells. Earlier in her career, she investigated the differentiation and proliferation of smooth muscle cells, such as those that occur during pathological vascular remodeling in atherosclerosis and restenosis.
During the last few years, Dr. Jeon has turned her attention to corneal wound healing and, in particular, the differentiation from fibroblasts to myofibroblasts. At first, this work focused on ways of pharmacologically controlling this process, especially using PPARs ligands. These ligands are already clinically used for the treatment of diabetes and are known to regulate many important cellular functions, including metabolism, adipogenesis, proliferation and differentiation in a variety of body tissues. Relevant to the cornea, we found PPARs ligands capable of inhibiting myofibroblast differentiation in vivo and in vitro, identifying them as a potentially exciting, new class of topical ocular therapeutics.
While pursuing this project, Dr. Jeon's team also discovered that myofibroblast transformation – such as occurs in large corneal wounds - directly inhibits nerve regeneration in vivo and in vitro. Her current efforts are focused on understanding the interaction between myofibroblasts and neurons. Controlling corneal re-innervation after wounding has important implications for blinding conditions such as neurotrophic keratitis, where persistent corneal wounds occur.