Kai Kaarniranta

Kai Kaarniranta

University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland

Kai Kaarniranta


Kai Kaarniranta is professor and chief physician at Kuopio University Hospital, head of the Department of Ophthalmology, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio. The basic topic of research and clinical activity of prof. Kaarniranta is age-related macular degeneration (AMD) - an eye disease for which in the vast majority of cases there is no remedy. Professor studies the molecular mechanisms of AMD pathogenesis using various models, including those based on cells obtained from transgenic animals and induced pluripotent stem cells. His works on the importance of autophagy in the mechanisms of AMD pathogenesis were considered groundbreaking in the study of the etiopathogenesis of this disease. Professor Kaarniranta also works as a doctor - he participated and continues to participate in several clinical trials. He received many European and national grants to research the molecular aspects of AMD and was invited to present their results at many scientific meetings hosted by the most prestigious 
organizations conducting research in ophthalmology.He is past president of the European Association for Vision and EyeResearch. He is the editor-in-chief of "Acta Ophthalmologica"and a member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences. He lectures on clinical andbasic sciences at the University of Kuopio. He has supervised 10 doctorsand is currently a supervisor in 11 doctoral theses. He is the author of over 350 scientific papers, his Hirsch index is 58, and the number of citations exceeds 20 000. 

Description of the general focus of the symposium "Aging retina"

There is a connection between the aging process of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye, and the aging of the brain. Research in the field of neuroscience and ophthalmology has indeed shown that there are various connections between the health of the retina and the brain. Since the retina represents a projection of central nervous system, any changes observed within retinal tissue reflect on the condition of the brain. This potentially could be used in different approaches. Firstly, as the retina with all its structures, i.e., retinal layers or vessels is accessible for current diagnostic methods for direct observation, changes in the retina may be used as a marker of pathological processes within the entire brain. Secondly, the pathological processes related to aging in the retina can be translated to those observed within the brain, for example in Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia. Both the retina and the brain have complex vascular networks. Changes in blood vessels, such as narrowing or leakage, can be indicative of aging-related issues. Conditions like age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in the retina and vascular dementia in the brain may share commonalities. Certain neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, can have manifestations in the retina. Abnormalities in the structure and function of the retina may precede or mirror changes in the brain. Advanced imaging techniques, like Optical Coherent Tomography, allow detailed examination of the layers of the retina. This can help identifying subtle changes that may reflect neurodegenerative processes in the brain. The retina and the brain share common neural pathways, and both are part of the central nervous system. Changes in neural function and connectivity may be observable in both the retina and the brain. 

Talk: "Age-Related Macular Degeneration - the Alzheimer's of the retina"

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a late-onset, neurodegenerative retinal disease that shares several clinical and pathological features with Alzheimer's disease (AD), including stress stimuli such as oxidative stress and inflammation. In both diseases, the detrimental intra- and extracellular deposits have many similarities. Aging, hypercholesterolaemia, hypertension, obesity, arteriosclerosis, and smoking are risk factors to develop AMD and AD. Cellular aging processes have similar organelle and signaling association in the retina and brain tissues. However, it seems that these diseases have a different genetic background. 

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