Medical student earns Alpha Omega Alpha research fellowship

Archana Murali

Third-year Case Western Reserve University medical student Archana Murali has earned Alpha Omega Alpha’s 2023 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship for her work studying intraocular pressure reduction pathways and the potential treatment for glaucoma using a specific prostaglandin analog. The national medical honor society awards the $5,000 prize to help foster the next generation of medical researchers.

“There are two established pathways for the outflow of aqueous humor to drain from the anterior chamber of the eye,” said Murali. “In 2009, researcher Yeni H. Yücel, MD, PhD, from the University of Toronto described a potential third pathway involving drainage through lymphatic vessels, so the goal of my research was to see if we could further investigate this potential lymphatic drainage pathway and see if it has a role in current glaucoma therapy.“

Murali’s research involves the prostaglandin analog Bimatoprost and its role in inducing lymphangiogenesis to reduce intraocular pressure. Her mentor, Douglas Rhee MD, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the School of Medicine, observed the long-term impact of the drug in clinical practice and started exploring it on a scientific level with his lab team (including Murali).

“The question I asked was why some of these people are experiencing a long-term decline in intraocular pressure?” said Murali. “So I studied if the drug was working on a new, not well-studied pathway, such as the lymphatic, to achieve this result.”

Rhee says Murali is a determined researcher.

"Archana was relentless in her pursuit of the answer to our hypothesis,” said Rhee. “She did extensive independent investigation and background literature searches to strengthen her scientific approach."

Murali is grateful for Rhee’s guidance on this project and his mentorship throughout her time at Case Western Reserve. 

The Minneapolis native who earned her biomedical engineering degree at Columbia University in New York City, likes being back in the Midwest.

“For the most part, everybody I meet is very nice and is always willing to assist you in whatever way they can, “ said Murali about Cleveland and University Circle. “It's a very well-rooted family area, multiple generations of people have been here for a long time, so it's fantastic.”

When she isn’t busy with clinical rotations, Murali keeps up her family tradition of Friday movie nights.