Research

The Carver College of Medicine is on the campus of the University of Iowa, one of the top ten public institutions for federally supported research. We have taken advantage of our proximity to scientists in multiple disciplines to weave together a research program that takes advantage of members of the faculties in Ophthalmology, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, Pediatrics, Neurology, and Genetics.

We are not content to use state of the art therapy and to teach students, residents, and fellows the current State of the Art. We want to move the State of the Art forward. For this reason, the Glaucoma Center has been at the forefront of glaucoma research for decades. Our current major research thrusts are in the three areas outlined below. Importantly, all of our research efforts are intertwined with each other and with the clinic. One of the true strengths of our research effort is the integration between clinical medicine and the laboratories. One critical link between patients and the laboratory is Teresa Kopel, our research coordinator who recruits patients for our various scientific endeavors.

Genetics, Cell Biology and Molecular Physiology

The Glaucoma Center Laboratories are at the forefront of understanding the underlying genetic, biochemical and physiologic basis of glaucoma. We are building upon important discoveries that were made here at the University of Iowa:

  • The first genetic linkage for primary open angle glaucoma (GLC1A)
  • The first gene for primary open angle glaucoma (myocilin)
  • The two genes for the developmental glaucoma Axenfeld-Rieger syndrome (PITX2 and FOXC1).
  • A gene for normal tension glaucoma that was the first glaucoma gene discovered using studies of copy number variations (TBK1).
  • Discovery of a mouse model of pseudoexfoliation (LYST).
  • Creation of a mouse model of myocilin glaucoma.

We maintain one of the largest collections of DNA from patients with glaucoma in the entire world. We have also developed the capacity for growing stem cells from patients own skin biopsies and studying stem cells that have been turned into tissues that are damaged in glaucoma. This stem cell technology gives us the chance to do studies that would not be possible in any other way and also holds a promise for therapeutic developments using stem cells. The combined resources of these laboratories approach the underlying causes of glaucoma in different but highly integral ways. We then seek to understand how these genes affect individual cells and then how these cells behave within an entire organism.

Imaging Center

Map Stack Image

Because the eye is a clear organ we are given the opportunity to visualize the optic nerve and the nerve fiber layer of the retina. While we can visualize these structures, analyzing them for subtle change is difficult. The Imaging Center uses computers to recognize subtle changes that might indicate the development or worsening of glaucoma. These devices can be used by ophthalmologists or can detect disease when expert examiners are not available.

The Imaging Center is closely tied to the Biomedical Imaging Program at the University of Iowa.

Visual Field Reading Center

The Visual Field Reading Center (VFRC) under the direction of Dr. Chris Johnson seeks to find better ways of measuring visual function in patients with glaucoma and other eye diseases. Dr. Johnson is one of the world’s authorities on visual field measurement. The Visual Field Reading Center interprets visual function for many multi-center clinical trials as well as many pharmaceutical investigations.

To date, the VFRC:

  • Has served as the visual field reading center for a multi-center trial involving medication used for Parkinson’s disease
  • Is currently participating in a glaucoma multicenter trial sponsored by a pharmaceutical company
  • Has archived all of the visual field information from the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study (OHTS), the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial (ONTT) and the Longitudinal Optic Neuritis Study (LONS)
  • Is currently serving as a reading center for a multi-center trial for a medication used for seizure disorders
  • Has several potential clinical trials pending.

Additionally, the VFRC has been working with the perimetry service for the Ophthalmology Department and clinical investigators to provide assistance in the storage, retrieval and interpretation of visual field information.