At Scheie Eye Institute and the F.M. Kirby Center for Molecular Ophthalmology, scientists investigate the causes of important eye conditions including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, hereditary retinal degenerations, cataract and severe myopia that may be treatable with molecular therapies.
In addition to the gene therapy work being done by Jean Bennett, PhD, and Albert Maguire, MD, nearly 50 physician/scientists are involved in translational ophthalmology research at Penn, many of them bringing their research directly to the patients they treat.
Dr. Brucker is one of the most prolific investigators at Scheie Eye Institute. As a retina specialist, Dr. Brucker’s research focuses on medications and treatments for diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema and age-related macular degeneration. He is also a member of the executive committee of the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network (DRCRnet), the NEI-sponsored collaborative network dedicated to facilitating multicenter research of diabetic eye conditions.
Dr. Bunya is currently the principal investigator for several dry eye studies focused on studying different components of the tear film. In addition, she serves as a co-investigator for an international Sjogren’s syndrome study and is part of a multidisciplinary team working on the development of a new blepharitis reading center. She will soon begin her K12 research training grant, which focuses on the development of new topical therapies for dry eye disease.
Dr. Dunaief is the recipient of the prestigious Cogan Award from the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. His research and clinical practice focus on age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a common cause of irreversible blindness in the U.S. Evidence suggests that cumulative oxidative damage contributes to AMD and aging in general and his research has found that AMD retinas have iron overload, which can increase oxidative stress. Dr. Dunaief’s lab is working to understand retinal iron homeostasis and how it may lead to treatments for AMD. His lab has found that treating genetically engineered mice with an oral iron-binding drug prevents both retinal degeneration and a Parkinson’s disease-like movement disorder.
Dr. Grunwald is world renowned for his research on blood flow in the retina. Currently, he is photographing the retinas of patients with kidney disease to identify retinopathy. The tiny blood vessels in the retina reflect vascular issues throughout the body and the photos provide a non-invasive way to obtain information about vascular disease. Dr. Grunwald is also an investigator on the Comparison of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials (CATT) and the Retinopathy in Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort study (RCRIC).
Known nationally and internationally as an expert in ocular inflammatory diseases—such as uveitis, scleritis, and others—as well as ocular complications of AIDS, Dr. Kempen is the principal investigator for the Systemic Immunosuppressive Therapy for Eye Diseases (SITE) Cohort Study, the first NIH-sponsored multicenter clinical research study in the field of uveitis. Following up on the results of the study, Dr. Kempen is now expanding his research to examine cancer-related mortality among patients with ocular inflammation who are being treated with immunosuppressive drugs.
Dr. Laties’ lab focuses on understanding the mechanisms of hereditary retinal degenerations and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), to perform pre-clinical evaluation of drug therapies, and to fast track laboratory results to patient care.
As director of the Center for Preventive Ophthalmology and Biostatistics, Dr. Maguire’s current research projects include directing the coordinating center for the NIH-funded Comparison of Age-related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trials, a multicenter, randomized clinical trial involving 1,200 patients with choroidal neovascularization.
As a glaucoma specialist and director of the glaucoma service, Dr. Miller-Ellis’ research interests include medical and surgical interventions for glaucoma, and diagnostic techniques for the evaluation of glaucoma. She was the principal investigator for the Advanced Glaucoma Intervention Study and the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study, two pivotal multicenter clinical trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health that helped define glaucoma management. She is also the principal investigator for an upcoming multicenter clinical trial that will evaluate the relative efficacy of medical and surgical management of glaucoma.
Dr. Shindler’s research area is optic neuritis, an inflammatory disease of the optic nerve that often occurs as part of the neurodegenerative disease multiple sclerosis. (MS). Dr. Shindler’s studies are helping to identify new drug therapies and drug combinations to prevent nerve damage in MS, and such therapies will also likely have benefits for other neurodegenerative diseases.
Dr. Stambolian’s lab focuses on gene discovery of complex and single-gene disorders. His research projects include searching for the genes for myopia (near-sightedness), age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Nance Horan Syndrome (a disorder linked to the X-chromosome causing eye and dental abnormalities) and Tcm gene causing microphthalmia or small eyes.
As a cornea specialist and a clinician scientist, Dr. Stasi’s current research project, in collaboration with Penn’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine, focuses on establishing a method for culturing cornea/limbal stem cells and studying their properties in a way that they can be used in the future for transplantation in order to treat limbal stem cell deficiency from a variety of ocular conditions, from ocular burns to post-cancer to congenital diseases.
Dr. Stone is director of the Applied Ophthalmic Neurobiology Laboratory, studying control mechanisms regulating ocular physiology and development. His studies have addressed the mechanisms responsible for myopia (near-sightedness). His studies have identified several signaling pathways that appear to be involved in controlling eye development, a number of which have now been extended to children. These include the identification of a drug-inhibiting myopia progression in children, the first such clinical innovation in several centuries, and the idea that the daily light-dark cycle might influence eye development.
Dr. Ying is the principal investigator of the Data Coordinating Center for a multicenter study “Telemedicine Approaches to Evaluating Acute-phase Retinopathy of Prematurity (e-ROP)”, a four-year study funded by the National Eye Institute. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is the leading cause of treatable childhood blindness, but is becoming an increasing problem in underserved areas of the U.S. and Canada, and epidemic rates are being found in rapidly developing countries The e-ROP study evaluates the validity, reliability, feasibility and cost-effectiveness using telemedicine to examine the eyes of at-risk babies. The study will enroll 2,000 babies with birth weight of 1250 grams (2.76 pounds) or less from 10 neonatal intensive care units in the United States. The study hopes to greatly reduce the number of examinations needed to be performed by specially trained ophthalmologists, and significantly increase the number of babies who receive appropriate timely evaluations.