Albert Florens Storm Eye Institute: Seeking A Clear Vision for Everyone
Researchers at the Albert Florens Storm Eye Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina continually seek out research opportunities in an effort to ultimately eliminate the many eye diseases that rob so many people of their sight. Areas of research include age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and hereditary diseases of the retina such as Retinitis Pigmentosa, Leber Congenital Amaurosis, and Stargardt.
Glaucoma is one of the major causes of blindness, affecting over 2 million Americans and over 60 million people worldwide. It is a group of disorders that gradually steals sight without warning, and often without symptoms. Abnormally high pressure inside the eye may cause damage to the optic nerve and the retina. The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain, carrying signals, which the brain interprets as images. Damage to the optic nerve can initially cause blind spots in the field of vision. This is the main sign of glaucoma; however, this sign appears after substantial damage has already occurred. Early diagnosis and treatment can minimize or prevent optic nerve damage and limit glaucoma-related vision loss. Current therapeutic management of glaucoma aims to halt or slow disease progression by reducing elevated pressure, but although pressure-lowering treatment can retard the disease, it is not always sufficient to prevent disease progression. Researchers at the Storm Eye Institute are studying a variety of chemical compounds that can lower pressure in the eye, while at the same time protecting the retina. Additionally, these compounds can reduce the production of pro-inflammatory molecules known to play a central role in glaucoma pathology. The outcome of these studies will provide valuable leads for the discovery of more effective therapies that can prevent the vision loss associated with glaucoma.
Age-related macular degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. Currently, it affects about 1 in 28 Americans over the age of 40, with an estimated 1.75 million citizens having late stage disease with major vision loss. As the population ages, this number is expected to increase to close to 3 million in 2020. The tissue affected first in age-related macular degeneration is the retinal pigment epithelium, a single layer of tightly connected cells between the retinal photoreceptors and the choroidal blood supply. The primary function of the retinal pigment epithelium is to provide the photoreceptors with nutrients necessary for their survival and proper function; it also removes any harmful waste products generated by the photoreceptors. Many factors or their combinations, including genetics, smoking, oxidative stress, and immune system activation, may cause damage to the retinal pigment epithelium, which eventually results in photoreceptor death and loss of vision. Investigators at Storm Eye Institute have developed a new, mass spectrometry-based molecular imaging technology, which is capable of spatially detecting and following the generation of abnormal by-products of vision. These by-products accumulate in the retinal pigment epithelium and may be responsible for its functional degeneration and eventual vision loss. In other projects, researchers are developing targeted inhibitors that block the immune system components activated in age-related macular degeneration and playing a role in blood vessel and smoke-induced pathology. The impact of these studies will improve our ability to predict vision loss in individuals, and identify new therapies for the treatment of macular degeneration, and other retinal diseases.
SEI Research Faculty:
- Dr. Zsolt Ablonczy
- Dr. Mas Kono
- Dr. Shahid Husain
- Dr. Rosalie Crouch
- Dr. Barb Rohrer
- Dr. Craig Crosson
- Dr. Yiannis Koutalos
- Storm Eye Institute
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
- New Treatments for Macular Degeneration (video)