Professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences
A.B. 1981, Harvard University, M.D./Ph.D. 1988, Harvard Univeristy; Postdoctoral Fellow/Resident, 1989-1990, UCLA Medical Center, Jules Stein Eye Institute
Biochemistry and biophysics of nutritional interventions against ocular disease; carotenoid and omega-3 fatty acid metabolism and function in the human retina; genetics of macular and retina dystrophies and degenerations
Paul S. Bernstein, MD, PhD 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 diseases 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. in Pharmacology with Dr. Robert Rando on vitamin metabolism in the retina, and an M.D. from the Division of Health Sciences and Technology, 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, followed by a vitreoretinal fellowship at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Bernstein Laboratory macular pigment measurement devices.
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, and his laboratory in now studying the role of very long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (VLC-PUFAs) in age-related macular degeneration. Dr. Bernstein has authored over one hundred peer reviewed research articles and reviews as well as eight book chapters and four patents, and he has served as a reviewer for numerous journals, foundations, and institutes.
Retinal image of a patient with Stargardt macular dystrophy.
Dr. Bernstein's research has helped to establish the importance of lutein and zeaxanthin and the omega-3 fatty acids in the maintenance of macular health. He was 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, and he is now conducting .research to study the role of these nutrients in infant ocular function and foveal development. 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.