Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, Ophthalmology, Pediatrics / 09.08.2016 Interview with: R. Sterling Haring, DO, MPH Center for Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety University of Lugano, Switzerland Department of Health Policy and Management Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Chemical burns of the eye are among the most serious and emergent of eye injuries. In the worst cases, corrosive chemicals can eat into the eye and damage internal structures, rendering the individual with little or no vision in the affected eye. Given the proximity of the eyes to one another, it is not uncommon for these injuries to be bilateral, further complicating the clinical picture. Working-age individuals, particularly men, are known to be a high-risk group for these types of injuries. In the first nationwide study on this issue, we found that 1-year old infants were at substantially higher (1.5x) risk of these injuries than the highest-risk age group among adults; 2-year-olds were a close second. These injuries tapered off as children grew older, such that the risk among 1-year-old infants was 13 times higher than that of 7-year-old children. Across all ages, injuries occurred most frequently among lower-income households. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Lifestyle & Health, Ophthalmology / 05.08.2016 Interview with: Paul Dinneen Loprinzi, PhD Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management University of Mississippi What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Previous research demonstrates that adults who have higher daily sedentary behavior tend to have worse cardiometabolic health profiles. The extent to which sedentary behavior is associated with diabetic retinopathy has yet to be evaluated in the literature before our study. Our findings provided some suggestive evidence that more sedentary behavior was associated with a higher odds of having diabetic retinopathy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Ophthalmology / 30.06.2016 Interview with: Marianne Price, Ph.D. Executive Director Cornea Research Foundation of America Indianapolis, Indiana What is the background for this study? Dr. Price: Over 40% of Americans are near-sighted and the rate of near-sightedness continues to increase. The most common treatments are glasses, contact lenses, or laser refractive surgery (LASIK). The purpose of this study was to find how patient satisfaction compares with contact lenses and with LASIK. We enrolled 1800 participants at 20 sites across the USA; 694 participants (39%) continued wearing contact lenses and 1106 (61%) had LASIK. Participants were surveyed at baseline, 1, 2 and 3 years. (more…)
Author Interviews, Ophthalmology / 28.06.2016 Interview with: Jeffrey R. Willis, MD, PhD University of California Davis Eye Center Sacramento, CA What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The goal of this study was to understand how "Big Data" in ophthalmology could be utilized to assess the prevalence of rare diseases such as myopic choroidal neovascularization (mCNV). Prior to our study, there was limited knowledge on the burden of this devastating condition as previous estimates were done more than 20 years ago, had a small sample size, and were not generalizable to the current U.S. population. In order to address this knowledge gap, we realized the potential of two large datasets with ophthalmic information, including the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and the IRIS Registry. The former provides nationally representative data, but with limited ophthalmic disease information. The latter dataset, supported by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), is the nation's only comprehensive database of ophthalmic patient outcomes. By triangulating data from the these two data sources in conjunction with population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, we were able to calculate the mCNV prevalence in the United States. Specifically, we showed that mCNV is a rare condition, affecting about 41,000 adult Americans, with a higher burden on women than men. This study effectively showed that using "Big Data" in ophthalmology could help us better understand the epidemiology of rare ophthalmic conditions in the US. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, Ophthalmology, Technology / 20.06.2016 Interview with: Jeff C. Rabin, O.D., M.S., Ph.D., F.A.A.O., Dipl. Vision Science Professor and Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies, Research and Assessment Chief, Visual Neurophysiology Service University of the Incarnate Word Rosenberg School of Optometry San Antonio, TX What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Rabin: The use of hand-held cellphones during driving has been widely banned but the impact of hands-free communication on visual performance remained unclear. Therefore, we used a standard automobile Bluetooth device suspended above our visual display and determined that hands-free communication significantly delayed response time to detect low contrast black-white and color targets. Moreover, hands-free communication decreased sensitivity of “color-blind” subjects to detect targets corresponding to their color deficiency and all subjects showed a tendency for decreased sensitivity for detection of small, low contrast black-white targets. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Macular Degeneration, Ophthalmology / 09.06.2016 Interview with: Adam Glassman, M.S. Director, DRCRnet Coordinating Center Jaeb Center for Health Research Tampa, FL 33647 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Diabetic macular edema (DME) is the most common cause of vision loss in patients with diabetes, impairing the vision of approximately 750,000 people in the United States. The most common treatment involves the injection into the eye of one of 3 drugs that inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network, funded by the National Institutes of Health, conducted a randomized clinical trial on the comparative effectiveness of the 3 anti-VEGF drugs EYLEA®, Avastin®, or Lucentis® for eyes with decreased vision from diabetic macular edema. There are substantial cost differences between the three drugs. In the United States, EYLEA® costs approximately $1850, repackaged (compounded) Avastin® $60, and Lucentis® $1170 per injection. In eyes with relatively good starting vision, there were no differences in vision outcomes; all three groups, on average, had improved vision. In eyes with starting vision of 20/50 or worse, EYLEA® had better vision outcomes at 1 year than either Avastin® or Lucentis®, and better vision outcomes at 2 years than Avastin®. However, given that, on average, eyes will receive 9 to 10 injections within the first year of treatment and 5 injections in the second year, neither EYLEA® nor Lucentis® would be considered cost effective by standard benchmarks compared with Avastin® unless their prices decrease substantially. (more…)
Anesthesiology, Author Interviews, Ophthalmology, Surgical Research / 04.06.2016 Interview with: Dr Gilles Guerrier Cochin University Hospital Paris, France What is the background for this study? Dr. Guerrier: Awake eye surgery is particularly stressful for patients. Music has long been known to reduce anxiety, minimise the need for sedatives, and make patients feel more at ease. The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the effect of music on anxiety in outpatients undergoing elective eye surgery under topical (local) anaesthesia. The music played was specifically composed to ease anxiety following strict criteria, including instrumental pieces only using a decreasing tempo and a progressive decrease in the number of instruments playing. Each patient was able to choose from a panel of 16 recorded music styles according to their own preferences, and listened through high quality headphones. There were various styles available, including jazz, flamenco, Cuban, classical and piano. The music was provided by MUSIC CARE, a Paris-based company that produces music aimed at preventing and managing pain, anxiety and depression. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Ophthalmology, Technology / 17.05.2016 Interview with: Sheldon J.J. Kwok MD/PhD Candidate Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology | Harvard Medical School Yun Bio-Optics Lab Wellman Center for Photomedicine MGH What is the background for this study? Response: Corneal collagen crosslinking (CXL) using UV light and riboflavin has become a popular and effective technique for treating corneal ectatic disorders, such as keratoconus, by mechanically strengthening the corneal stroma. We were interested in enhancing the capabilities of CXL using the principle of two-photon excitation, which uses a femtosecond laser to confine crosslinking to only where the laser is focused.  By scanning the laser, this allows us to crosslink any arbitrary three-dimensional region deep inside tissue. With two-photon collagen crosslinking (2P-CXL), treatment of thin corneas is possible without affecting the underlying endothelium. Irradiation can also be patterned to improve keratocyte viability. Furthermore, selective crosslinking in three dimensions offers the possibility of modulating corneal curvature for refractive error correction. (more…)
Author Interviews, Ophthalmology / 13.05.2016 Interview with: Prof. Dr. med. Hans Hoerauf Direktor der Augenklinik Universitätsmedizin Göttingen Göttingen What is the background for this study? Dr. Hoerauf: Two treatment options, anti-vascular endothelial growth factors (anti-VEGFs) and corticosteroids, with different mechanisms of action are available for the treatment of macular edema secondary to Central Retinal Vein Occlusion (CRVO). Our study, COMRADE-C, is the first head-to-head study to investigate the clinical efficacy and safety of the European labels of ranibizumab (anti-VEGF) versus dexamethasone intravitreal implant (corticosteroid) in patients with CRVO over six months. (more…)
Artificial Sweeteners, Author Interviews, Brain Injury, JAMA, Neurological Disorders, Ophthalmology / 12.05.2016 Interview with: Dr. T. Dianne Langford PhD Associate Professor, Neuroscience and Neurovirology Lewis Katz School of Medicine Temple University What is the background for this study? Dr. Langford: The ocular-motor system has been shown to reflect neural damage, and one of ocular-motor functions, near point of convergence (NPC), was reported to worsen after a sport-related concussion (Mucha et al. Am J Sport Med). But the effects of subconcussive head impact, a milder form of head injury in the absence of outward symptoms remains unknown.  Prior to this study, we found that in a controlled soccer heading experimental paradigm decreased NPC function, and even 24h after the headings, NPC was not normalized back to baseline (Kawata et al. 2016 Int J Sport Med). To extend our findings from the human laboratory study, we launched longitudinal clinical studies in collaboration with the Temple football team, to see if repetitive exposure to subconcussive head impacts negatively affects NPC. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Ophthalmology / 12.05.2016 Interview with: Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler MD Boxer Wachler Vision Institute Beverly Hills, California What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: As an eye surgeon, I observed patients tended to have more age spots on the left side of their faces.  I was examining a patient with Keratoconus and after I noted her age spots on her left cheeks, I began to look into this phenomenon.  It turns out there are many studies that found more skin cancer on the left side of the face compared to the right side of the face.  In Australia (where people drive on the left side of the road) it’s the opposite – more skin cancer on the right side of the face.   Our study found that cars on average have significantly lower UVA (ultraviolet A) protection in the side windows compared to windshields which have universally high UVA protection.  I believe this can be the missing link that can explain higher rates of skin cancer on the side of the face by the driver’s window. There are also more cataracts in left eyes vs right eyes.  There was no relationship between high-end cars and low-end cars for side window UV protection – in other words many more pricey cars had just as poor side window UV protection as less expensive cars. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, JAMA, Melanoma, Ophthalmology / 30.04.2016 Interview with:
J. William Harbour, M.D.
Leader, Eye Cancer Site Disease Group
Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center University of Miami Miller School of Medicine What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Harbour:  Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common primary cancer of the eye which has the fatal tendency to metastasis to the liver. The molecular landscape of UMs have been well characterized and can be categorized by gene expression profiling (GEP) into two molecular classes associated with metastatic risk: Class 1 (low risk) and Class 2 (high risk). The Class 2 profile is strongly associated with mutations in the tumor suppressor BAP1. This GEP-based test is the only prognostic test for UM to undergo a prospective multicenter validation, an it is available commercially as DecisionDX-UM (Castle Biosciences, Inc).  It is routinely used in many North American centers. The identification of driver mutations in cancer has become a focus of precision medicine for prognostic and therapeutic decision making in oncology. In UM, thus far, only 5 genes have been reported to be commonly mutated:  BAP1, GNA11, GNAQ, EIF1AX, and SF3B1. In this study, we analyzed the associations between these 5 mutations, and with GEP classification, clinicopathologic features, and patient outcomes. The study showed that GNAQ and GNA11 are mutually exclusive, probably occur early in tumor formation, and are not associated with prognosis.  In contrast, BAP1, SF3B1, and EIF1AX, which are also nearly mutually exclusive, likely occur later in tumor formation and do have prognostic value in UM. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Ophthalmology / 13.04.2016 Interview with: Kimberly D Tran, MD Bascom Palmer Eye Institute What is the background and purpose for this study?  Dr. Tran: Approximately 30% of the population will suffer from herpes zoster (also known as shingles) at some point in their lifetime, with an estimated 1 million cases in the U.S. each year (1).  The most common long term complication of  herpes zoster is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), or persistent neuropathic pain lasting beyond three months after initial presentation of  herpes zoster. PHN can negatively affect quality of life to a degree similar to congestive heart failure, depression, acute myocardial infarction,diabetes. Postherpetic neuralgia is a leading cause of suicide in patients over 70 with chronic pain.(3,4) Of all the cases of herpes zoster, an estimated 10-20% will have herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO), which is defined as shingles in the area of the face near the eye, and sometimes the eye itself becomes involved.  Approximately 50% of individuals with HZO will develop ocular complications without antiviral treatment, while antiviral induction within the first 72 hours of rash onset reduces this number to 20-30% (2). Randomized control trial has demonstrated the efficacy antiviral therapy in the treatment of herpes zoster on first presentation.(6) What is less understood is the course of HZ after its initial presentation. Traditionally studied and treated in the acute phase,(5-7) recent data suggest that some patients experience a chronic or recurrent disease course. Based on this data, it is clear that more information is needed on the long term clinical course of herpes zoster ophthalmicus. The purpose of this study was to characterize the epidemiology of recurrent and chronic HZO in a unique South Florida population, with an ethnically and racially mixed, predominately male population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Ophthalmology, Vitamin C / 25.03.2016 Interview with: Christopher J. Hammond, MD, FRCOphth Departments of Ophthalmology & Twin Research King's College London St. Thomas' Hospital London UK What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hammond: Twin studies allow us to quantify the influence of genes vs environment on a trait and this study suggests 65% of variation of cataract progression is due to environmental factors. Vitamin C has long been linked to cataract because the lens of the eye is bathed in fluid rich in ascorbate, a derivative of vitamin C. We showed that, even in a relatively well-nourished UK population, those in the highest third of vitamin C dietary intake (equating to something like 3 times the RDA of 60mg) had a third less progression of lens opacities. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Ophthalmology / 14.03.2016 Interview with: Fanny Raguideau Evaluateur en pharmaco-épidémiologie Direction Scientifique et de la Stratégie Européenne Pôle Epidémiologie des produits de santé What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Retinal detachment (RD), including both exudative types often associated with systemic diseases that might be receiving antibiotics for related conditions as well as rhegmatogenous which require prompt surgical intervention to reduce the chance of irreversible severe vision loss, has an annual incidence rate of 1 per 10,000 in the general population. Rhegmatogenous is the most common type. Fluoroquinolones are one of the most commonly prescribed classes of antibiotics. Thanks to their broad-spectrum antibacterial coverage, they are effective in the treatment of a wide variety of community-acquired infections. What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Several studies have suggested that oral fluoroquinolone use increased the risk of Retinal detachment, however this association remains controversial. We conducted a nationwide self-matched design study to overcome limitations of previous studies. Our finding of a significant increased risk of  Retinal detachment, including both rhegmatogenous and exudative types, following use of oral fluoroquinolone strongly supports the existence of this association. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Melanoma, Ophthalmology / 08.03.2016 Interview with: Ines Laines MD and Deeba Husain MD Associate Professor Ophthalmology Harvard Medical School Investigator Angiogenesis Laboratory Retina Service Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Boston, MA 02114 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Uveal melanoma (UM) is the most common malignant tumor of the eye in adults. More than half of the patients are long-term survivors. It is well established for other malignancies that cancer survivors are especially prone to developing independent second primary neoplasms (SPNs) and that their characteristics vary according to the site of the first primary tumor. Multifactorial causes seem to be involved, including environmental exposures and genetic risk factors. The relevance of the treatment modalities applied to the first tumor also seem to play a role, in particular radiation therapy, which is currently the gold-standard treatment for most uveal melanoma. This risk is most pronounced in the organs within the irradiated fields, but has also been described in sites not directly exposed to radiation. Despite growing knowledge about treatment-induced effects on the occurrence of SPNs in patients with other malignancies, data is insufficient for uveal melanoma. We present a population-based analysis of the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database, which is a well-validated public database with a case ascertainment rate of 98%. In this study, we evaluated whether patients with UM demonstrate an increased incidence of  second primary neoplasms compared to the general population, including an analysis on whether radiation therapy is associated with a higher risk of thesesecond primary neoplasms. (more…)
Author Interviews, Geriatrics, JAMA, Ophthalmology, Primary Care / 03.03.2016 Interview with: Dr. Albert Siu M.D., M.S.P.H. Chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Chairman and professor of the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Director of the Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Siu: Impaired vision is a serious and common problem facing older adults and can affect their independence, ability to function, and quality of life. When the Task Force reviewed the research around screening older adults for vision impairment in a primary care setting, we concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms. As a result, we issued an I statement, which is consistent with the 2009 final and 2015 draft recommendations. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Siu: Older adults who are having problems seeing should talk to their primary care doctor or an eye specialist. Primary care doctors can explore the various causes of vision problems and do an eye exam to check for refractive error. An eye specialist can do a full eye exam to look for and treat refractive errors and other eye conditions that affect vision, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). With regards to clinicians, in the absence of clear evidence, they should use their clinical judgment when deciding whether to screen patients who have not reported any concerns about their vision. (more…)
Author Interviews, Diabetes, Ophthalmology / 01.03.2016 Interview with: Adam Glassman, M.S. Director, DRCRnet Coordinating Center Jaeb Center for Health Research Tampa, FL 33647 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response:  Diabetic macular edema (DME) involves a build-up of blood and fluid in the macula, the part of the eye needed for sharp, straight-ahead vision. Diabetic macular edema can occur in people with diabetic retinopathy and is the most common cause of diabetes-related vision loss.  Anti-VEGF agents are the first line treatment for most U.S. retinal specialists to treat vision loss from DME.  There are three commonly used agents to treat DME, EYLEA, Avastin, and Lucentis.  Eylea and Lucentis are FDA approved for Diabetic macular edema treatment.  However, Avastin is used off-label in repacked aliquots containing approximately 1/500th of the systemic dose used in cancer therapy.  The costs of these agents vary substantially, with Eylea priced at $1,850 per injection, Lucentis at $1,170, and repackaged Avastin at $60.  Results of this study, conducted by the Diabetic Retinopathy Clinical Research Network ( and funded by the NIH, found that all three agents are effective at improving vision and reducing DME over 2 years.  When vision loss is relatively mild at baseline (20/32-20/40), all three agents are similarly effective at improving visual acuity.  However, when vision loss at baseline is worse, Eylea outperforms Avastin at 2-years and also outperforms Lucentis at one year, but the difference between Eylea and Lucentis diminishes and is no longer statistically different at 2 years.  The percentage of participants that experienced a systemic adverse events such as heart attack, stroke, or death from an unknown cause was greater with Lucentis (12%) versus Eylea (5%) and Avastin (8%).  However, similar findings have not been seen in most previous studies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Cancer Research, Melanoma, Ophthalmology / 01.03.2016 Interview with: J. William Harbour, MD Professor & Vice Chairman Dr. Mark J. Daily Endowed Chair Director, Ocular Oncology Service Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Interim Associated Director for Basic Research Leader, Eye Cancer Site Disease Group Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Member Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Biomedical Research Building, Room 824 Miami FL 33136 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Harbour: Gene expression profiling has become the predominant means of molecular prognostic testing in uveal melanoma, with primary tumors being divided into Class 1 (low metastatic risk, about two thirds of cases) and Class 2 (high metastatic risk, about one third of cases).  In this study, we identified a new biomarker for uveal melanoma that subdivides Class 1 tumors based on the mRNA expression of the oncogene PRAME. Class 1 tumors not expressing PRAME have an extremely low metastatic risk, whereas those expressing PRAME have an intermediate metastatic risk. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Ophthalmology / 27.02.2016 Interview with: Jason Hsu, MD Retina Service, Wills Eye Hospital Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Thomas Jefferson University Mid Atlantic Retina Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Hsu: There are some patients with the wet type of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) who have persistent swelling in the retina despite regular, repeated eye injections with the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) medications (e.g., Avastin, Lucentis, and Eylea). I had postulated that if we could decrease the turnover of fluid inside the eye, it might allow the injected medicine to stay in the eye for a longer period of time. I chose dorzolamide-timolol (brand name: Cosopt), a commonly available prescription eye drop used for glaucoma, since it is a very potent aqueous suppressant. By slowing down the production of eye fluid, I theorized it might decrease the outflow of fluid and medicine from the eye. Our study was a small, nonrandomized, exploratory pilot study. We enrolled 10 patients with wet AMD who had persistent retinal swelling despite chronic, fixed interval anti-VEGF injections. We kept patients on the exact same anti-VEGF medication and continued to see them at the exact same interval that they had been on before study enrollment. Once enrolled, the only difference is that we had them start using dorzolamide-timolol eye drops twice a day for the course of the study. The results were fairly striking with the retinal thickness decreasing from around 420 microns to 334 microns at the final visit. This decrease in swelling was significant at the first study visit after starting the drops and remained significant throughout the course of the study. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Ophthalmology, Surgical Research, Toxin Research / 27.02.2016 Interview with: Yu-Chih Hou, MD Department of Ophthalmology National Taiwan University Hospital Taipei, Taiwan MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? Dr. Yu-Chih Hou: We have encountered 3 patients with right eye pain and corneal edema after left orofacial surgery under general anesthesia since December 6. 2010. The first patient underwent a left tongue tumor excision by an ENT doctor. Postoperative day one, corneal epithelial defect and edema with mild anterior chamber reaction were noted in the right eye. Because his presentation was different from corneal abrasion which was the most common eye injury after general anesthesia, we suspected this ocular complication could be due to toxic reaction to antiseptic. Although corneal edema decreased, corneal endothelial cell density decreased and cataract developed later in the first patient. Two months later, the second patient had a similar toxic keratopathy but with severe corneal edema in his right eye after wide tumor excision of left lower gingival cancer by dentist surgeons. We found the antiseptic they used contained alcohol. We recommended not to use alcohol-containing antiseptics in oral surgery. Unfortunately, more severe toxic keratopathy occurred in the third patient after a left nasal tumor excision by other ENT doctor one year later. Because these severe ocular complications may occur again, it raised us to do detail study and we found all antiseptics they used contained alcohol. We hope to prevent occurrence of this toxic keratopathy in nonocular surgery by reporting our findings to other clinicians. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, Macular Degeneration / 15.02.2016 Interview with: Demetrios Vavvas, M.D., Ph.D. Co-Director Ocular Regenerative Medical Institute Clinician scientist at Mass. Eye and Ear and Co-Director of the Ocular Regenerative Medicine Institute at Harvard Medical School Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Vavvas: There is a lack of effective therapies for dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness affecting millions. Although AMD shares similarities with atherosclerosis, prior studies on statins and AMD have failed to show improvement. A limitation of these studies has been the heterogeneity of  age-related macular degeneration disease and the lack of standardization in statin dosage. We were interested in studying the effects of high-dose statins, similar to those showing regression of atherosclerotic plaques, in age-related macular degeneration. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Vavvas: Here, we present for the first time evidence that treatment with high-dose atorvastatin (80mg) is associated with regression of lipid deposits and improvement in visual acuity, without atrophy or neovascularization, in high-risk age-related macular degeneration patients. Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report? Dr. Vavvas:
  • High dose lipophilic statin administration was associated with regression of large soft drusen and vision gain in 10/23 age-related macular degeneration patients.
  • Duration of treatment before a positive response was observed was usually 1-1.5 years.
  • Patients on high-dose statin appeared to be protected from progression to “wet” neovascular-AMD.
Cholesterol reduction was similarly drastic in responders and non-responders, which suggests that genetic variation may be important in determine who will benefit and who may not. Age-related macular degeneration is a heterogeneous disease and that targeting the lipid pathway in the appropriate manner and to the appropriate populations we may have the potential not only to slow down or arrest the disease but all to reverse it. (more…)
Author Interviews, Biomarkers, Genetic Research, Ophthalmology / 11.02.2016 Interview with: Dr Shi Song Rong PhD and Guy Li-Jia CHEN MBBS, MMed, MRCSEd (Ophth), PhD Assistant Professor Department of Ophthalmology & Visual SciencesPrince of Wales Hospital Faculty of Medicine The Chinese University of Hong Kong Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Primary angle-closure glaucoma (PACG) as a major form of glaucoma accounts for about half of the cases blinded from the disease. So far, more than 50 genes/loci have been assessed for their associations with PACG and a wider spectrum of relevant conditions, primary angle-closure disease (PACD).  In the article, we summarize the statistical associations of individual genes varying across different study cohorts and conducted meta-analysis to evaluate the associations of 28 polymorphisms in 11 genes/loci with PACD and its subtypes, including PACG, primary angle-closure (PAC) and/or primary angle-closure suspect (PACS). Thus, we affirmed the association of PACG and combined PACS/PAC/PACG with 10 polymorphisms in 8 genes/loci as potential biomarkers. Among them 3 were identified in the genome-wide association study (COL11A1,PLEKHA7 and PCMTD1-ST18), and 5 (HGFHSP70MFRPMMP9 and NOS3) in candidate gene studies. (more…)
Author Interviews, Herpes Viruses, Ophthalmology, Vaccine Studies / 30.01.2016 Interview with: Frederick W. Fraunfelder, MD MBA Chairman and Roy E. Mason and Elizabeth Patee Mason Distinguished ProfessorDepartment of Ophthalmology Missouri University School of Medicine Director of the Missouri University Health Care’s Mason Eye Institute Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Fraunfelder: The background starts with a paper by Hwang et al (Cornea. 2013 Apr;32(4):508-9.Reactivation of herpes zoster keratitis in an adult after varicella zoster vaccination. Hwang CW Jr1Steigleman WASaucedo-Sanchez ETuli SS.) After reading this paper, I started keeping track of keratitis cases that were reported to my registry ( and also to the FDA and WHO spontaneous reporting databases. We found case reports in adults and children of keratitis occurring soon after vaccination, and we presented this at the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting that we just held in Las Vegas in November 2015. The main findings are that in rare instances, relatively speaking, herpes infection can occur in the cornea of the eye within days to weeks after vaccination. This may especially be true in adults who have had shingles in the past which caused a keratitis in the past. This keratitis may reoccur after the vaccination, and primary care providers should inquire about this past medical/ocular history and advise of the risk of recurrent keratitis after the vaccination for shingles. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Ophthalmology / 18.01.2016

More on Gene Therapy on Interview with: Benjamin Bakondi, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Scientist Laboratory of: Shaomei Wang, M.D., Ph.D. Institute Director: Clive N. Svendsen, Ph.D. Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute Cedars-Sinai Medical Center; Dept. of Biomedical Sciences Los Angeles, CA 90048 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bakondi: Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited disease that causes progressive retinal degeneration and continual vision loss. Over 130 mutations have been identified in over 60 genes that cause RP. Gene replacement therapy is being evaluated for the recessive form of RP, in which both inherited alleles are dysfunctional. Retinitis Pigmentosa arising from dominant mutations however, would not benefit from such a strategy, and alternative options have not demonstrated clear efficacy. The idea for a therapeutic based on our approach is to use CRISPR/Cas9 to ablate the mutant copy of an allele and leave the wild-type copy unaffected. Barring haploinsufficiency, the wild-type allele should restore function and prevent retinal degeneration at levels commensurate with Cas9 cleavage efficiency. Our experimental findings provide proof-of-principle that a single DNA nucleotide difference in the genomic sequence between mutant and wild-type genes is enough to distinguish the mutant transcript for Cas9 cleavage with high fidelity. Eliminating production of the mutant rhodopsin protein prevented retinal degeneration and preserved vision. While Cas9/gRNA delivery improvement is underway, it should be noted that translational applicability of this approach is restricted to dominant mutations, not all of which may be targetable for ablation therapy. (more…)
Author Interviews, Exercise - Fitness, Ophthalmology, PLoS / 18.01.2016

More on Ophthalmology on Interview with: Robert Ritch, MD, FACS Shelley and Steven Einhorn Distinguished Chair Professor of Ophthalmology Surgeon Director Emeritus and Chief, Glaucoma Services Founder, Medical Director and Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board The Glaucoma Foundation Jessica V. Jasien MEn Einhorn Clinical Research Center The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai New York, NY 10003 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States and elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) is the most common known risk factor for glaucomatous damage. At the current time, IOP is the only modifiable risk factor for which treatment has a proven effect on preventing or slowing the progress of the disease. The story behind this study goes back to 1980, when we saw a 45-year-old woman with severe damage from normal-tension glaucoma, which then was thought to be a disease of the elderly and also thought to be rare, which we now realize was erroneous. The causes of normal-tension glaucoma were also poorly understood. It turned out on questioning that this particular patient had been performing yoga and standing on her head for 20 minutes a day for 20 years. We measured her IOP in this position and it rose from 15 mmHg in the sitting position to 60 mmHg. When measured lying flat, it was 30 mmHg. We measured everyone working in the department standing on their heads and the IOP roughly doubled in each of them. This was our first inkling that marked changes in IOP could result from changes in body position. The background for this study came from the lack of knowledge of IOP rises during yoga inversions, other than the headstand position. We looked at four common inverted yoga positions in glaucoma patients and healthy patients who were all experienced in practicing yoga. The four positions tested were downward facing dog, plow, legs up the wall, and forward bend. Each position showed a direct increase in IOP immediately assuming the yoga position, however the IOP dropped once assuming the seated position after two minutes in the yoga position. The most significant increase in IOP was seen during the downward facing dog position. IOP of each study participant was taken seated (baseline), immediately assuming the yoga position, which was held for two minutes, again at the two minutes of the yoga position, immediately in the seated position following the yoga position, and again after 10 minutes in the seated position. Each position was tested once in this order of IOP measurements. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brigham & Women's - Harvard, JAMA, Nutrition, Ophthalmology / 16.01.2016

More on Ophthalmology on Interview with: Jae Hee Kang, MSc, SC Associate Epidemiologist, Brigham and Women's Hospital Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School Brigham and Women's Hospital Department of Medicine Channing Division of Network Medicine Boston, MA 02115 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kang: Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, and primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of the disease. Little is known on the causes of glaucoma but dysfunction in the regulation of blood flow to the optic nerve, which transmits visual information to the brain, may be involved. Nitric oxide is important for maintenance of blood flow and its signaling may be impaired in glaucoma. We were interested in whether dietary nitrates, an exogenous source of nitric oxide mostly found in green-leafy vegetables, may be related to lower risk of POAG. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Kang: We (Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear researchers) used 25+ years of data from over 100,000 participants in the Nurses' Health Study (63,893 women) and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (41,094 men). Participants were nurses or other health professionals and were aged 40 years or older and reported eye exams. We collected information on their diet and other health information every two years with questionnaires. During follow-up, 1,483 new cases of primary open-angle glaucoma with visual field loss were identified and confirmed with medical record review. Participants were divided into quintiles (one of five groups) of dietary nitrate intake (quintile 5, approximately 240 mg/day; quintile 1, approximately 80 mg/day) and of green leafy vegetables (quintile 5, approximately 1.5 servings/day; quintile 1, approximately one-third of a serving/day). We observed that greater intake of dietary nitrate and green leafy vegetables (e.g., romaine and iceberg lettuce and kale/chard/mustard greens) was associated with a 20 percent to 30 percent lower POAG risk; the association was particularly strong (40 percent-50 percent lower risk) for POAG with early paracentral visual field loss (a subtype of POAG most linked to dysfunction in blood flow autoregulation). (more…)
Author Interviews, Columbia, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Ophthalmology / 15.01.2016

More on Health Care Costs on Interview with: Alisa Prager BS Bernard and Shirlee Brown Glaucoma Research Laboratory Department of Ophthalmology Edward S. Harkness Eye Institute Columbia University Medical Center, New York, New York MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study?  Response: The goal of this research was to better understand the impact of glaucoma on non-ophthalmic healthcare use and costs. While there have been other studies assessing costs associated with glaucoma, these studies were primarily derived from either claims data or chart review. Our study used the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, which is a dataset that links claims data with survey results. The advantage of this is that the survey data allowed us to assess patient reported outcomes that did not necessarily prompt an encounter with the health care system, such as recent falls or feelings of sadness. The MCBS also provides complete expenditure and source of payment data on health services, including those not covered by Medicare, which allowed us to look at a more full spectrum of both private and public healthcare use and costs among Medicare beneficiaries. MedicalResearch: What are the main findings? Response: We found that Medicare beneficiaries with glaucoma have 27% higher likelihood of inpatient hospitalizations and home health aide visits compared to those without glaucoma, even after adjusting for covariates and excluding individuals who were admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of glaucoma. When we stratified glaucoma patients based on self-reported visual disability, we found that those with self-reported visual disability were more likely to complain of depression, falls and difficulty walking compared to those without. We also found that glaucoma patients incurred a predicted $2,903 higher mean annual total healthcare costs from all sources compared to those without glaucoma after adjusting for socioeconomic factors and comorbidities. Costs were higher among those who reported visual disability, and remained higher after excluding outpatient payments. (more…)