H. Nida Sen, M.D., MHSc
Lasker Clinical Research Scholar
Clinical and Translational Immunology Unit
Uveitis, a group of inflammatory diseases of the uveal tract of the eye, is a sight threatening autoimmune disease and is responsible for approximately 10%-15% of blindness. It affects people in their most productive work years leading to a socioeconomic burden. Uveitis is a multifactorial condition whose etiology remains elusive despite recent advances. Challenges in clinical uveitis research include disease heterogeneity, lack of understanding of what triggers and what propagates the disease. Majority of the knowledge for human disease is extrapolated from animal models which do not reflect the heterogeneity of disease observed in humans due to the inherent limitations of experimental models. Lack of prognostic or diagnostic biomarkers also hamper the development of targeted treatments. Currently, most uveitis patients are treated with “one size fits all” manner. Lack of markers for individual disease entities and prognosis leads to some patients being undertreated and others overexposed to immunosuppressive treatment. Beyond individual health risks to such approach, there is also the cost to society.
A major goal of program is to combine natural history or treatment studies with basic investigation. Dr. Sen’s research fundamentally relies on human subjects with immune mediated ocular diseases and therapeutic trials that takes advantage of a wide variety of clinical and basic science tools such as: clinical ophthalmic imaging, genomic and transcriptomic sequencing, bioinformatic tools, molecular and cellular biological assays. The program also takes pride in being one of the few centers that train the next generation of clinician scientists who will dedicate their career to advancement of the field of ocular immunology
The broad and long-term objectives of Dr. Sen’s research program is to develop disease biomarkers through clinical and transcriptional profiling of patients with ocular inflammatory diseases and developing targeted therapies. She also investigates the role of gut microbiome in uveitis patients form both a mechanistic and biomarker perspective with the ultimate goal of developing novel therapeutic approaches. She is interested in standardizing clinical outcomes for uveitis trials by utilizing ocular image processing and analysis. She is the principal investigator on several clinical trials on new treatment methods for uveitis.
Current areas of interest of the Clinical and Translational Immunology Unit are:
To understand the role of gut microbiome in human uveitis and to investigate the potential of gut microbiota as a biomarker of disease onset or responsiveness to treatment
Identification of novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets by characterizing molecular and immune correlates of disease subtypes and activity in uveitis
Understanding and establishing the utility of multimodal ocular imaging as potential outcome measures in uveitis.
Dr. Sen obtained her M.D. degree from Hacettepe University of Turkey and a Master of Health Sciences from Duke University. She completed her ophthalmology residency at George Washington University and her uveitis and ocular immunology fellowship at the National Eye Institute (NEI). She is a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar and clinical investigator at the NEI.
Dr. Sen’s research primarily focuses on understanding the mechanisms involved in different forms of human uveitis on the premise that better understanding of the disease will lead to development of innovative methods of diagnosis and novel treatment approaches. She has led many clinical trials and natural history studies in ocular inflammatory diseases. She has been and remains a collaborator on several NIH-funded grants. She has received several awards for her research including senior achievement award of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, Prevention of Blindness (POB) society of Metropolitan Washington Research Award, and NIH Lasker Clinical Research Scholar Award. She is also an NIH Distinguished Scholar. In addition to her research activities Dr. Sen is an active clinician and an educator. She is the Director of the Uveitis Clinic and Uveitis and Ocular Immunology Fellowship Program at NEI and mentored many clinical fellows, residents and MRSP students. She is a board certified ophthalmologist and is a participating member of American Academy of Ophthalmology and international research networks.