Research Topics - Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss
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Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss

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Research Topics

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Through the efforts of Drs. Sinisa Grozdanic, Matthew Harper, and Tatjana Lazic, we have successfully developed a blast injury model of traumatic brain injury that has significant relevance to TBI in veterans. We are poised to investigate and identify the underlying mechanisms involved in brain injury from TBI and design specific treatment modalities that target the molecular processes that are mediating the damage to cause structural and functional deficits. We feel that this area of research will lead to direct translation of therapeutic approaches relevant to humans.

We have also developed new objective methods of assessing visual function in humans that have cognitive impairment who are not normally able to undergo some of the standard clinical evaluations of visual function due to inability to attend to visual function tests and report accurately what they are seeing. These new objective methods include:
 •computerized recording of pupil light reflexes
 •recording of visual evoked potentials from the eye and the brain
 •monitoring of eye gaze and head position so that visual perception can be determined by how well eye position correlates with visual target position.

These objective approaches toward assessing visual dysfunction have many important applications for veterans whose responses to standard visual tests requiring attention and complex judgments may not always be reliable. These objective approaches to monitoring visual function will help solve these clinical dilemmas.

Telemedicine

The Center has a major goal of developing inexpensive cameras and monitoring devices that will allow non-eye care providers to assess veterans for eye diseases such as:
 •diabetes
 •glaucoma
 •macular degeneration
 
 We have been making great strides in this area, led by the Associate Director of our Center, Michael Abramoff, M.D., Ph.D. and Center investigators Milan Sonka, Ph.D. and Mona Haeker-Garvin, Ph.D.

Our team of image analysis experts has been successfully developing computer algorithms based on feature analysis of digital retinal images that allows diagnosis of specific feature-defined disorders. These approaches are being informed by underlying structural analysis using optical coherence tomography imaging of the same eyes, which provides a sound foundation upon which many of the features are most accurately defined.

Dr. Abramoff has also developed a prototype portable low cost retinal imager in conjunction with the most well-known ophthalmic lens manufacturer, Volk Optical Inc. (Mentor, OH) in which a CMOS miniature camera is combined with sophisticated new optical design to minimize reflections and which provides easily obtainable retinal images.

Neurotrophic Growth Factors

The Center's research protocol focuses on human eye diseases such as:
 •glaucoma
 •compressive optic neuropathy
 •laser-induced retinal damage
 •autoimmune retinopathy
 •TBI
 
In the last year, we have been able to identify which neurotrophic growth factors are most effective in preventing vision loss in these different disorders based on receptor analysis in retinal and optic nerve tissue, messenger RNA and growth factor intrinsic production and by using the appropriate growth factor in a sustained intravitreous form.
 
Our recent efforts to produce stem cells that are specifically engineered to produce a specified growth factor will provide a biologic factory which can be introduced into the eye for chronic production of vision saving neurotrophic growth factors.