Understanding the Eye: Researchers to Explore Vision at the Cellular Level

Sept. 9, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute to study the causes and progression of eye diseases at the cellular level.

Joseph Carroll, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology, biophysics, and cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, is the principal investigator of the grant. Dr. Carroll is also the co-director of the Advanced Ocular Imaging Program (AOIP) at the Froedtert & Medical College Eye Institute. Co-investigators on the multi-center project include Thomas Connor, Jr., MD, and Kimberly E. Stepien, MD, associate professors of ophthalmology at MCW; and Alfredo Dubra, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology and Co-Director of the AOIP; Michel Michaelides, MBBS, University College London; and Pei-wen Chiang, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University.

Inherited retinal degenerations affect approximately one in 1,500 individuals in the United States, and the prospect of treating these devastating diseases has been a daunting task for clinicians. While progress has been made in the development of therapeutic strategies for these conditions in animal models, sensitive tools to directly and immediately assess how various interventions might affect retinal health in human patients do not exist.

In this project, researchers will to develop sensitive, noninvasive, cellular-resolution techniques for assessing photoreceptor structure in the living human retina. In addition, they will utilize genetic analysis and electrophysiological and behavioral testing to investigate how cellular disruptions in the retina affect visual function. Insights gleaned from that study will accelerate the application of this high-resolution imaging approach to define therapeutic potential on an individualized basis and to provide anatomical outcome measures for use in emerging therapeutic trials.

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