Anthony St. Leger, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology

Education & Training

  • PhD in Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, 2012
  • BS in Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, 2008

Research Interests

We have pioneered research in a historically understudied area of ophthalmology, the ocular microbiome and its effect(s) on ocular disease. Normally a highly contentious topic in ophthalmology, the ocular microbiome does, indeed, tune local immunity to prevent fungal and bacterial infection. To this end, the lab has an R01 aimed at understanding how  Corynebacterium masitidis, an ocular microbe, colonizes the eye and stimulates host immunity.

A separate arm of research (R01 funded) in the laboratory focuses on investigating how corneal nerves affect the development of ocular disease. In healthy individuals, the cornea, which is the most densely innervated tissue in the body, is innervated by sensory nerves that control the blink reflex and allow the eye to wash away potential pathogens, allergens, and/or irritants. After infection with HSV-1, corneal sensory nerves retract and are replaced with sympathetic nerves, which lack the ability to sense stimuli. As a result, the infected eye loses the ability to blink, which leaves the ocular surface susceptible to trauma and drying. We hypothesize that this mechanism is largely responsible for the disease associated with HSV-1 infection. Current research in the lab focuses on identifying specific factors regulating sensory nerve retraction and sympathetic nerve growth in hopes of developing novel therapies that preserve blink reflexes.