Research Topics

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 learn these techniques working with both patients and technicians, depending on the project.

Timeline

Ongoing projects.

Status of IRB/IACUC approval

Image analysis studies in CIARC approved; ongoing projects have IRB approval. If launching a new project, IRB approval will need to be obtained.

Prospects for Publishing and Presenting

Excellent; we have a long track record of publications in major journals and presentations at national and international conferences.

Contact Information

Michele Ware

Secretary to Dr. Jonathan Lass


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. Any new studies will need IRB approval.

Prospects for Publishing and Presenting

Excellent; the data base study has been presented at ARVO and is in preparation for publication in a major pediatric journal.

Contact Information

Dr. Faruk Orge


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.

Students 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 Information

Dr. Irina Pikuleva


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 guidelines. 

Other corporate-funded work may or may not allow authorship.

Contact Information

Dr. Loretta Szcztoka-Flynn


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 presentations at national and international conferences.

Contact Information

Information about the laboratory can be found by browsing the Park Lab webpage.