Research Program

Immune processes, inflammation and pathological (lymph)angiogenesis are important components of various eye diseases that can lead to blindness. These include graft rejection after corneal transplantation, dry eye and allergic eye disease, ocular tumors, uveitis, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Extensive preliminary work of this research unit showed that abnormal lymphangiogenesis and reactive macrophages/microglial cells are essential triggers and mediators of inflammatory reactions in these eye diseases. Our hypothesis therefore is that by selective modulation of ocular (lymph)angiogenesis and cellular immunity (especially microglia and macrophages) novel innovative therapeutic approaches can be developed to target these heterogeneous diseases.

The research unit has the core objective of gaining a deeper understanding of these molecular processes and to develop new diagnostic and treatment options for common blinding eye diseases through intensive collaboration between specialized research groups in the areas of (lymph)angiogenesis research, inflammatory macrophages, microglial physiology, and uveitis research.

Three thematic areas

lymphatic vessels

Lymphatic vessels are an important part of the “afferent” arm of inflammatory and immune responses. Via lymphatic vessels, antigen-presenting cells and antigens from the periphery enter the regional lymph nodes to induce local immune responses.


Microglia-mediated retinal immune processes are an early occurring pathophysiological hallmark of hereditary retinal dystrophies, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.


Macrophages along with resident microglial cells of the retina appear to play a key role in all ocular inflammatory processes to be studied here. Thus, certain polarized phenotypes of macrophages mesh intimately with pathological lymphangiogenesis.

Background and specific aims


The eye is the most important human sensory organ with which we perceive 90 percent of all information in our environment. The optical transparency as well as a structural and functional integrity of the eye is essential for good vision.

Specific aims

The general goal of the FOR 2240 is the concerted investigation of the so far still poorly understood pathogenesis of aberrant immune processes of the eye and the development of innovative new diagnostic and therapeutic concepts.


FOR 2240 scientists receive several honors at ARVO 2022

The scientist of the DFG research group 2240 again had a strong presence at the annual ARVO conference in 2022. ARVO is the largest organization for eye and vision research worldwide. The conference took place in person in Denver, Colorado from 1st – 4th May and virtually from…

FOR 2240 Scientist Dr. Alexander C. Rokohl was awarded the Brewitt Publication Prize

Dr. Alexander C. Rokohl, physician and clinician scientist at the Center for Ophthalmology at the University Hospital of Cologne, was awarded the Brewitt Publication Prize at the Congress of the German Academy of Ophthalmology 2022…

Dr. Simona Schlereth wins RWA Science Award 2022

PD Dr. Simona Schlereth, Clinician Scientist at the Department of Ophthalmology of the University Hospital Cologne and member of the DFG FOR 2240, won the Science Award 2022 of the Rhineland-Westphalian Ophthalmologists in the amount of 10.000€ with her project “Strengthening the antitumoral immune response of dendritic…


The research unit FOR 2240 hosts a number of different formal events, including regular internal meetings of all principle investigators, invited guest lectures, visiting professors, retreats, and a symposium to be held near the end of the initial funding period.


The research unit FOR 2240 is embedded in various institutional contexts and has close cooperative ties to various other projects and networks.