Robert Sack, PhD
SUNY College of Optometry
33 West 42nd Street New York, NY 10036

Research Description

Biochemistry and Functionality of the Pre-Ocular Tear Film Proteins in Health and Disease

Current laboratory active interests: Proteomics of the pre-ocular tear film and vitreous fluid in normal, ocular and systemic diseases.  Development of ultrasensitive protein arrays for clinical tear diagnosis.  Proteomics of the host-defense mechanisms, inflammatory, immune and angiogenic mediators of the ocular surface environment and diurnal changes in the pre-ocular tear film.

Research grant: PI Alcon Laboratories 2008 $115,000.
Ongoing collaborative research projects funded with other PI - Tear proteomics- Sjogren syndrom, Collaborator Dr. Nancy McNamara, Proctor Foundation UCSF Medical School. NEI funded.

Tear proteomics-post refractive surgery relationship to surgical induced dry eye syndrome, CollaboratorsDr Darlene Dartt, Schepenes Eye Research Institute and Dr. Craig Bowers, US Army, Walter Reed Medical Center. Dept. of Defense Funded  Angiogenic modulators in tears, Collaborator Dr. M. Schwartzman Department of Pharmacology, NY Medical College.

Angiogenic modulators in the diabetic vitreous. Dr. Andrea Leonardi, Department of Ophthalmology, University of Padua, Italy,  Dr. Ralph Gundel,  SUNY proteomics and keratoconus.


Bard College, BA 1965

NY Medical College, Chemistry Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory, PhD, Cryobiochemistry. 1972

Postdoctorate NY Medical College, Chemistry Department, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Present Positions

Professor, Department of Biological Science, Collaborator Co-operative Research Centre for Eye Research and Technology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.

Selected Related Publications

  • Specificity and Biological Activity of Protein Deposited on Hydrogel Lenses. Robert A. Sack, Barri Jones and Hattie Harvey. Invest. Ophthamol.  Vis. Sci. 28, 842-894 (1987).

  • Immunoglobulin Deposition on Contact Lenses Relationship to Adverse Reactions,Hydrogel Structure and Mode of Use and Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis.  BarriJones and Robert A. Sack: CLAO 15, 4-48 (1989).

  • Diurnal Tear Cycle: Evidence for a Nocturnal Inflammatory Constitutive Tear Fluid.  Robert A. Sack, Kah Ooi Tan and Ami Tan: Invest Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci.33, 626-640 (1992).

  • The closed eye challenge!  Holden, Brien A., Kah Ooi Tan and Robert A. Sack.In: Proceedings International Conference on the Lacrimal Gland Tear Film and DryEye Syndromes: Basic Science and Clinical Relevance (1993).

  • Vitronectin:  Possible contribution to the closed-eye external host-defense mechanism.  Robert A. Sack, P. Anne Underwood, Kah Ooi Tan, Heidi Sutherland and Carol A, Morris:  Ocular Immunol and Inflam. 1, 327-336 (1993).

  • Temporal sequence of changes in tear film composition during sleep.  Kah Ooi Tan, Robert A. Sack, Brien A. Holden and Helen A. Swarbrick.  Current Eye Res.  12, 1001-1007 (1993).

  • Diurnal variations in tear glycoproteins: evidence for an epithelial origin for the major non-reducible >450 kDa sialoglycoprotein(s).   Robert A. Sack, Bruce I. Bogart, Ann Beaton, Sonal Sathe, and George Lew:  Curr. Eye Res. 16, 577 (1997).

  • The effect of eye closure on protein and complement deposition on Group IV hydrogel contact lenses:  relationship to tear flow dynamics. Robert A. Sack, Sonal Sathe, Leslie A. Hackworth, Mark D. P. Willcox, Brien A. Holden and Carol A. Morris:  Curr. Eye Res. 15, 1092 (1996).

  • Complement and Complement Regulatory Proteins in Human Tears.  Mark D. P. Willcox, C.A. Morris, A. Thakur, R. A. Sack, J.Wickson, and W. Boey:  Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 38, 1 (1997).

  • Elastase in a Major source of Caseinolytic activity in Closed Eye Tears and in Schirmer Strip Collected Samples.  Miki Sakata, Robert A. Sack, Sonal Sathe, and Ann R. Beaton:Curr. Eye Res. 16, 810 (1997).

  • Homeostatic Mechanisms that operate in the tear film during eye closure-Identification of tear borne complement regulators.  T. Sitaramma, M. Willcox, R., Sack, R, S. Shivaji and C Morris in Advances in Mucosal Immunology Volume 1, 1998. University of Sydney Press.

  • 31-27 kDa caseinolytic Protease in Human Tears. R. Sack et al. Lacrimal Gland, Tear Film, and Dry Eye Syndromes Volume 2. Sullivan, Dart and Meneray ed Plenum press 1998.

  • Diurnal Variations in Angiostatin in Human Tear Fluid-A possible Role in Prevention of Corneal Neovascularization. R. Sack, A. Beaton and S. Sathe.  Curr. Eye Res. 18; 186-193.

  • Towards a closed eye model of the pre-ocular tear layer. R. Sack, A. Beaton, S. Sathe, C. Morris, M. Willcox, and B. Bogart. Prog Retin Eye Res. 19: 649-68. Review (2000).

  • Effect of external Ocular Surgery and Mode of Post-operative Care on Plasminogen, Plasmin, Angiostatins and a2-Macroglobulin in tears. Lembach, M., Linenberg, C., Sathe, S., Beaton, A., Ucakhan, O., Asbell, P., & Sack, R. Current Eye Res. 22,286-294. (2001).

  • The distribution of gelatinases and associated proteins in normal and pathological tear fluids in proceeding of the Third Conference on Lacrimal Gland, Tear Film, and Dry Eye Syndromes. Robert A. Sack, Sonal Sathe, Ann R. Beaton. In press. (2002).

  • Host-Defense Mechanism of the Ocular Surfaces. In “Ocular Surfaces a Symposium in print.” Sack, R.A., Nunes, I., Beaton, A., & Morris, C. (2001-2). Bioscience Reports (London). 24, 463-480 (2002).

  • Sack RA, Sathe S, Beaton A. Tear turnover and immune and inflammatory processes in the open-eye and closed-eye environments: relationship to extended wear contact lens use.Eye Contact Lens. 2003;29(1 Suppl):S80-2

  • Sack RA, Sathe S, Beaton A, Kozinski M, Bogart B, Lew G, Sharma S, Upponi A. Is the cystatin-like domain of TSL functionally active in external ocular infections and during the normal diurnal cycle? Exp Eye Res. 2004;78(3):371-8.

  • Fung KY, Morris C, Sathe S, Sack R, Duncan MW. Characterization of the in vivo forms of lacrimal-specific proline-rich proteins in human tear fluid. Proteomics. 2004;4:3953-9.    

  • Hume E, Sack R, Stapleton F, Willcox M. .Induction of cytokines from polymorphonuclear leukocytes and epithelial cells by ocular isolates of Serratia marcescens. Ocul Immunol Inflamm. 2004 12(4):287-95.

  • Ni M, Evans DJ, Hawgood S, Anders EM, Sack RA, Fleiszig SM. Surfactant protein D is present in human tear fluid and the cornea and inhibits epithelial cell invasion by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Infect Immun. 2005 ;73(4):2147-56.  

  • Sack RA, Conradi L, Krumholz D, Beaton A, Sathe S, Morris C. Membrane array characterization of 80 chemokines, cytokines, and growth factors in open- and closed-eye tears: angiogenin and other defense system constituents. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2005 46(4):1228-38.

  • McNamara NA, Andika R, Kwong M, Sack RA, Fleiszig SM.Interaction of Pseudomonas aeruginosa with human tear fluid components. Curr Eye Res. 2005 ;30(7):517-25.

  • Du JW, Zhang F, Capo-Aponte JE, Tachado SD, Zhang J, Yu FS, Sack RA, Koziel H,Reinach PS. AsialoGM1-mediated IL-8 release by human corneal epithelial cells requires coexpression of TLR5. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2006;47:4810-8.

  • Lane JD, Krumholz DM, Sack RA, Morris C. Tear glucose dynamics in diabetes mellitus. Curr Eye Res. 2006;31:895-901.

  •  Sack R, Conradi L, Beaton A, Sathe S, McNamara N, Leonardi A.Antibody array characterization of inflammatory mediators in allergic and normal tears in the open and closed eye environments. Exp Eye Res. 2007 85:528-38.

  • Li S, Sack R, Vijmasi T, Sathe S, Beaton A, Quigley D, Gallup M, McNamara NA. Antibody protein array analysis of the tear film cytokines. Optom Vis Sci. 2008 85:653-60.

  • Sack R, Sathe S, Beaton AR, McNamara N, Fleiszig S, Ni M.Protein Array Characterization of Bioactive Proteins Secreted By Immortalized Human Corneal Epithelium in Response to Pseudomonas Constituents.Curr Eye Res. 2009;34:92-98.

  • Leonardi A, Sathe S, Bortolotti M, Beaton A, Sack R. Cytokines, matrix metalloproteases, angiogenic and growth factors in tears of normal subjects and vernal keratoconjunctivitis patients Allergy 2009; 1398-003,2008.

Invited Lectures

Keynote or speaker at numerous symposiums including those run by International Society of Contact Lens Research, various contact lens companies and pharmaceutical companies: Tear Film and Ocular Surface and Tear Film Society, International Society for Contact Lens Research, European Vision and Eye Research, International Society for Eye Research, ARVO Special Interest Symposiums, All India Ophthalmology Congress

Invited research lectures at various universities and institutes, including University of California Berkeley (Sarver endowed chair special lecture) University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Ohio State University, Schepens Eye Research Institute (Broadhurst Distinguished Lecturer) Brookhaven National Laboratory, New England College of Optometry, University New South Wales, Australia, Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India, LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, India, Etel Ocular Immunology Workshop, Etel, Germany, Berlin Ocular Cornea Symposium, Berlin, Germany, European Union Center for Scientific Excellence Workshop, Prague.

Current Active Research Projects

  • Tear proteomics and the development of ultrasensitive protein arrays for the analysis of normal and pathological human tear and vitreous humor fluids, Proteomics of ocular diabetes and allergic diseases.

  • Studies of tear proteomics in dry eye syndrome.

  • Studies of tear proteomics secondary to refractive surgery.

  • Studies of tear proteomics secondary to cornea dystrophies and neovascularization.

Patents Through SUNY Research Foundation and College

  • Awarded: Surfactant D., a new ocular anti-microbial and surface active agent awarded with S. Flieszig and D. Evans, UC Berkeley School of Optometry.

  • Pending: Use of tear protein arrays for ocular disease diagnosis.

  • Preliminary patent application filed: Protein array screening test, pre-surgical tear film to reduce risk of development of post-refractive surgical dry eye syndrome. 

Current Research Grants

  • PI- Protein Array analysis of Normal and Dry Eye Tears, Development of Protein arrays for the clinical diagnosis of different forms of dry eye syndromes and to evaluate the effectiveness of therapeutic intervention. Alcon $256,000 (2008-2008). Additional $50,000 pending.

  • Proteomics Dry Eye Syndrome-NEI funded collaboration Nancy McNamara PI, Procter Eye Research Foundation, UCSF Medical School collaborator

Pending grants

Protein Array Analysis of Post-Refractive Surgical Tear Film, DOD supplemental grant application from the Center for Refractive Surgical Research Unit, Walter Reed Medical Center (application pending).

Current Active Research Projects

This laboratory specializes in the development and identification of proteins in tear fluid which either mark or contribute to a wide range of ocular surfaces or protect the ocular surface from infection and inflammation and the cornea from scarring and new blood vessel formation. We have developed a new ultrasensitive technology to study these processes in clinically obtained tear samples. Current studies underway: 1. Proteomics and Lipidomics of Ocular allergies and corneal neovascularization. 2. Proteomics and Lipidomics of Human Vitreous Normal and Diabetic Retinopathy.


Internal: Ms Sonal Sathe, Drs. Ann Beaton, Pavel Isorovich, David Krumholz and Ralph Gundel

External: Professor Michal Schwartzman, Dept Pharmacology, NY Medical College. Professor Andrea Leonardi, Dept Ophthalmology Univ of Padua, Italy, Dr. Darlene Dartt, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School.  Professor Susan Fleiszig, Optometry UC Berkeley. Dr. Scott Bowers, Director, Center for Refractive Surgery Research, Walter Reed Medical Center,  Dr. Nancy McNamara, Proctor Eye Research Institute, UCSF Medical School.

Personal history

Married, lives with wife (retired PT and musician) and  faithful dog  Spot,  60 miles from New York on the south shore of long island in a 18th century farmhouse. The house is maintained in near original condition with extensive gardens and orchard, adjacent to nature preserves and the Great South Bay. Three grown children: eldest daughter is an established oil painter (, son will be receiving his doctorate next month from Stanford University in directing and creative writing, youngest daughter just graduated from Medical School and will be starting her internship in internal medicine at Harvard. Hobbies-sailing, mountain biking, construction and gardening. Involved in various environmental preservation groups. Favorite quote: 'Research has gone berserk too much paperwork” by Bob Dylan.