Research Opportunities

The Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences offers medical students and residents a variety of research opportunities. Please browse the basic science, translational, and clinical research projects currently underway below.

Research Topic:  Corneal endothelial health judged by endothelial image analysis
 
Description:
Endothelium is critical for dehydrating the cornea and keeping it clear.  With loss of its barrier and pump function, the cornea swells and corneal transplantation may be needed.  Changes in the number, shape and size of the cells may predict loss of function.
 
 
Key Research question/hypothesis:
Effect of drugs, surgery, devices, and preservation media on the endothelium
 
Methods:
Images of the endothelium captured with either a specular or confocal microscope that can take repeated pictures of the endothelial cells 
non-invasively in patients.  Once images are captured, they can be analyzed with special software in the Cornea Image Analysis Reading 
Center (CIARC) of the Department.  Student would learn these techniques working with both patients and technicians, depending on the projects
 
Timeline:
Ongoing projects
 
Status of IRB/IACUC approval:
Image analysis studies in CIARC approved; ongoing projects have IRB approval.  If new project, IRB approval will need to be obtained
 
Prospects for publishing and presenting:
Excellent with long track record of publications in major journals and presentation at national and international conferences
 
Contact info:
Helen Novotney (helen.novotney@uhhospitals.org), Executive Secretary to Dr. Jonathan Lass, at 216-844-8590
 
 
 
 
Research Topic:  Retinopathy of Prematurity and other Pediatric Studies
 
Key Research question/hypothesis:
Effect of low birth weight on the eye’s development
 
Methods:
Data Analysis, chart review.
 
Timeline:
Several ongoing projects—long term data collection
 
Status of IRB/IACUC approval:
Current study has IRB approval.  New studies will need IRB approval.
 
Prospects for publishing and presenting:
Excellent.  The data base study has been presented at ARVO and in preparation for publication in major pediatric journal.
 
Contact info:
Dr. Faruk Orge (faruk.orge@uhhospitals.org) at 440-684-1743
 
 
Research Topic:  Biochemical mechanisms of diabetic retinopathy and cataract.
 
Key Research question/hypothesis:
Cells in retinal capillaries die of apoptosis in diabetic retinopathy. We investigate mechanisms of such apoptosis using human retinal capillary 
cells and transgenic and knockout animals. Our studies on cataract involve novel biochemical pathways by which lens proteins become 
pigmented and aggregated during cataract formation. These studies are being carried out using cultured lens, lens epithelial cells and rodents.
 
Methods:
We use biochemical methods such as, enzyme assays, Western blotting, ELISA, HPLC, 2-D electrophoresis, mass spectrometry, UV and 
fluorescence microscopy, PCR, qPCR, cloning, site-directed mutagenesis, purification of proteins. 
 
Timeline:
Ongoing projects
 
Status of IRB/IACUC approval:
All projects have been approved by CWRU IAUCC and IRB.
 
Prospects for publishing and presenting:
Excellent with long track record of publications in top-tiered journals and presentation at national and international conferences.
 
Contact info:
Dr. Ram Nagaraj (ram.nagaraj@case.edu) at 216-368-2089
 
 
Research Topic:  Retinal degenerative diseases and the visual retinoid cycle
 
Description:
Production of visual chromophores (Vitamin A-derivatives) through the visual retinoid cycle is essential for vision. This cycle is conducted in 
the photoreceptor cell and the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cell in the retina, and abnormalities of each reaction cause retinal degeneration 
in humans. We study pathogenesis of degenerative retinal disorders associated with the visual cycle.
 
Key Research question/hypothesis:
Test hypotheses that impairments of the visual retinoid cycle cause several types of retinal degenerative diseases and these disorders are 
treatable by pharmacologic and genetic approaches.
 
Methods:
 In vivo studies using genetically modified mice and in vitro experiments are employed, and rigorous evaluations including retinal degenerative 
phenotypes, disease mechanisms, efficacy and safety of our candidate pharmacologic and genetic treatments by biochemical methods such 
as HPLC, electroretinography, and histological/histocytochemical assessment and in vivo retina imaging system.
 
Timeline:
Ongoing projects
 
Status of IRB/IACUC approval:
Ongoing projects have IRB/IACUC approval.  
 
Prospects for publishing and presenting:
Publications and presentations in 2010-2011
 
Contact info:
Dr. Tadao Maeda (txm88@case.edu) or Dr. Akiko Maeda (aam19@case.edu)at 216-368-0670
 
 
Research Topic:  Cholesterol and function of the retina. 
 
Description:
Cholesterol is essential for life in mammal. Yet, if it is chronically in excess, it is a risk factor for cardiovascular and Alzheimer's disease and 
likely age-related macular degeneration.
 
Key Research question/hypothesis:
To delineate the putative link between cholesterol and age-related macular degeneration.
 
Methods:
Characterization of retinal function of mice deficient in different enzymes involved in cholesterol elimination. Animals are assessed  by optical 
coherence tomography, electroretinography, fluorescein angiography and optomotor response. Student would learn these techniques working 
with post-doctoral researchers responsible for these projects
 
Timeline:
Ongoing projects
 
Status of IRB/IACUC approval:
All studies are approved by the IACUC.
 
Prospects for publishing and presenting:
Excellent
 
Contact info:
Dr. Irina Pikuleva (irina.pikuleva@case.edu) at 216-368-3823
 
Research Topic:  Contact Lens Related Complications
 
Description:
Ongoing clinical trials related to corneal infiltrative events associated with daily or extended wear of soft contact lenses.
Fungal and bacterial biofilm-contact lens models and susceptibility to contact lens care products.
 
Key Research question/hypothesis:
Assessment of sub-clinical corneal inflammation with confocal microscopy.
Assessment of bacterial endotoxin and relationship to infiltrative events with soft lenses.
 
Methods:
1. Ocular and lens cultures for assessment of bioburden
2. Reading/Assessment of stored confocal images
3. collection of worn lenses for biofilm formation
4. Lab Assays (in conjunction with Dr. Pearlman’s lab) for endotoxin on lens surfaces or within solution.
 
Timeline:
Ongoing projects
 
Status of IRB/IACUC approval:
Active approved IRB protocols exist for current clinical trials on infiltrative events, biofilm studies, and assays of previously collected lenses, tears, and images.
 
Prospects for publishing and presenting:
Excellent chance for authorship on investigator initiated studies of biofilm and endotoxin assays.  Listing of authors will follow standard publishing g
uidelines.  Other corporate funded work may/may not allow authorship.
 
Contact info:
Dr. Loretta Szcztoka-Flynn (loretta.szczotka@uhhospitals.org) at 216-368-3823
 
Research Topic:  Mechanisms of retinal degenerations
 
Key Research question/hypothesis:
How do mutations in the light receptor rhodopsin cause retinal degenerations like retinitis pigmentosa? How does the retina protect against oxidative stresses 
that can lead to retinal degenerations such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration?
 
Methods:
A multi-disciplinary approach is employed that includes biochemistry, molecular biology, animal models, and biophysics.
 
Timeline:
Ongoing projects
 
Status of IRB/IACUC approval:
All animal studies have approved IACUC protocols
 
Prospects for publishing and presenting:
Excellent with track record of publications in major journals and presentation at national and international conferences.
 
Contact info:
Information about the laboratory can be found by browsing the Park Lab webpage (click here)