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Physicians and Researchers Present at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2016 Annual Meeting

The UPMC Department of Ophthalmology will be well-represented at the Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2016 Annual Meeting in Chicago. Faculty research will be featured in both oral and poster presentations throughout the conference, including:

Friday, October 14, 2016

  • Infectious Keratitis After Laser Vision Correction:  How to Prevent and Treat
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD
  • Time-Kill Comparison of Povidone Iodine to Hypochlorous Acid against Endophthalmitis Isolates of Staphylococci
    Presented by: Matthew Klocek, MD
  • Release of Moxifloxacin from Corneal Collagen Shields
    Presented by: Siwei Zhou, MD
  • A Single Thermo-Responsive Drop Containing Microspheres Loaded with Moxifloxacin Prevents Endophthalmitis in Rabbit Model
    Presented by: Eric Romanowski, MS
  • Serratia marcescens Induced Corneal Epithelial Cell Blebs are Mediated by a Type V Secretion System
    Presented by: Robert MQ Shanks, PhD
  • Insight into the Corneal Wound Healing Response:  Transcriptomic and Metabolomic Analysis of  Corneal Epithelial Cells Challenged by Bacteria
    Presented by: Kimberly Brothers, PhD
  • Virucidal Activity of Purell Hand Sanitizer against Adenovirus in vitro
    Presented by: Jason Hooten, MD

Saturday, October 16, 2016

  • The Case of Infectious Keratitis That Wouldn’t Go Away
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD
  • Innovations in Glaucoma Care:  Evolution & Revolution
    Presented by: Nils Loewen, MD
  • Sonothrombolysis
    Presented by: Andrew Eller, MD

Sunday, October 17, 2016

  • How to Use OCT in Neuro-Ophthalmology
    Presented by: Gabrielle Bonhomme, MD
  • Advanced Suturing:  Scleral and Iris Fixation of Posterior Chamber IOLs plus Intraocular Knot Tying
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD
  • Evaluation of a New Technique of Simple Infrared-Augmented Digital Photography
    Presented by: Tarek Shazly, Gabrielle Bonhomme, MD
  • Trabectome-Mediated Ab Interno Trabeculectomy Combined with Baerveldt Implantation Compared to Baerveldt Tube Shunt Alone
    Presented by: Nils Loewen, MD
  • DMEK Demonstration for SightLife
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD
  • Myth-Busting in Refractive and Cataract Surgery
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, mD
  • Pearls for Pragmatic Microbiology in your 21st century ophthalmology practice
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD (senior instructor), Alex Mammen, MD, Joseph Martel, MD Ladan Espandar, MD, Rege Kowalski, MS

Monday, October 18, 2016

  • AmpliVue:  A New, Practical and Timely Diagnostic Test for Detecting Herpes Simplex Virus from Ocular Specimens
    Presented by: Rege Kowalski, MS
  • Endophthalmitis Prosphylaxis Using a Single Drop of Controlled Release Microspheres Loaded with Moxifloxacin in a Rabbit Model
    Presented by: Rege Kowalski, MD,  Alex Mammen, MD
  • Ab Interno Approach to Schlemm Canal
    Presented by: Nils Loewen, MD
  • Phacoemulsification & Advanced Techniques
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD

Tuesday, October 19, 2016

  • Advanced Refractive Cataract Surgery
    Presented by: Deepinder Dhaliwal, MD
  • Ab Interno Approach to Schlemm Canal
    Presented by: Nils Loewen, MD

Quest to Cure Blindness: Pitt, UPMC Recruit World-Renowned Expert in Research and Therapies for Blindness and Vision Impairment

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 5, 2016 – One of the world’s top experts in retinal diseases, who is developing an artificial retina as well as other regenerative therapies to treat blindness and vision impairments, has been named as the chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, director of the UPMC Eye Center, and the Eye and Ear Foundation Chair of Ophthalmology.

José-Alain Sahel, M.D., founder and director of the Vision Institute in Paris and currently a professor at the Sorbonne’s medical school Université Pierre-et-Marie-Curie, has joined UPMC and Pitt’s faculty.

Dr. Sahel is known worldwide for his expertise in vision restoration techniques. He has developed several interventions— including stem cell implantation, gene therapy, innovative pharmacologic approaches and the artificial retina—for retinitis pigmentosa, age-related macular degeneration, vascular eye disease and other vision impairments that currently are untreatable.  Over the past decade he has led pioneering efforts in optogenetic vision restoration, a technique in which cells in the retina are genetically modified to express light sensitive proteins. This therapeutic technique has the potential to help patients who are blind or visually impaired as a result of a genetic defect.

He also brings a strong neuroscience perspective to ophthalmology research, such as exploring the application of brain-computer interface technology, for which Pitt and UPMC are well known.

“We are delighted that Dr. Sahel has chosen to bring his remarkable talent to UPMC where he will, with immediacy, translate laboratory advances into treatment for patients with visual impairment,” said Steve Shapiro, M.D., chief medical and scientific officer at UPMC. “His creativity and commitment to bringing everything from rigorous basic science to eyesight-saving surgery to patient care are unparalleled. With his leadership, we expect to build on the amazing accomplishments he already has achieved in Paris as well as break new ground in vision research and care.”

“Dr. Sahel is a gifted physician-scientist with a heartfelt dedication to his patients and a broad intellectual reach. His work will soon have great impact on the ophthalmology department, on bench-to-bedside treatments for patients, and also on Pitt as a whole,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of Medicine.

Dr. Sahel will sustain his engagement with the Vision Institute, one of the world’s largest centers of integrated research on eye diseases, through a partnership formed between the Institute, the Sorbonne, Pitt School of Medicine and UPMC.

“I am very impressed with the strong support and energy at UPMC and Pitt, and share their objectives of developing creative new treatments and diagnostic tools to better serve patients,” Dr. Sahel said. “It was clear to me during my visits that the community is warm and welcoming, and rightfully proud of its city. I look forward to contributing to these impressive academic and health care legacies.”

As director of UPMC Eye Center, which is rated among the top ophthalmology programs in the United States in the delivery of care, Dr. Sahel will see patients, particularly those with complex diseases, and will lead UPMC clinicians in the diagnosis and treatment of both common and unusual eye disorders. The UPMC Eye Center is home to an outstanding ophthalmology teaching program that trains residents and clinical fellows in their pursuit of clinical, research and clinician-scientist careers.

Dr. Sahel is a co-inventor on more than 40 patents, several of which have led to start-up companies including Fovéa Inc., which Dr. Sahel founded and later became the Ophthalmologic Division of Sanofi Aventis. He also is a scientific co-founder of GenSight Biologics Inc. and Pixium Vision Inc. He is a member of 11 editorial boards, including the Journal of Clinical Investigation and Science Translational Medicine.

He also holds the positions of Cumberlege Professor of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, and chairman of the Departments of Ophthalmology at the Quinze-Vingts National Eye Hospital and at the Rothschild Ophthalmology Foundation, both in Paris.  At the Paris-based Ophthalmology Clinical Investigation Center, he oversees more than 50 clinical trials, many of which are focused on retinal implants, gene therapy and other advanced biomedical technologies. He also heads the French National Reference Center for Retinal Dystrophies and chairs a network of more than 90 European clinical trial centers focused on retinal diseases.

He has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, which include membership in the Legion of Honour (2008); the National Order of Merit (2002) and induction into the Collège de France, the highest honor awarded to a French scientist. He is an elected member of the Académie des sciences-Institut de France, the Académie des technologies, the Academia Ophthalmologia Internationalis and the German National Academy of Sciences. He has also received the Grand Prix for Neurosciences of the Foundation NRJ, Institut de France; the CNRS Medal of Innovation; the Foundation for Fighting Blindness Trustee Award and the Liura Liggett-Gund Award, among others. Dr. Sahel holds an honorary degree from the University of Geneva.

Dr. Sahel, who was born in Algeria, studied medicine at Strasbourg University and in Lariboisière, Saint-Louis. He received his medical degree with a Medal of the Faculty of Paris and obtained his specialty certification in ophthalmology. He completed a residency in neurology and neurosurgery at the Louis Pasteur University Hospital in Strasbourg. He also was a research fellow at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and a visiting scholar in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard University.

UPMC Eye Center Faculty Present at ARVO 2016

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s (ARVO) Annual Meeting is taking place in Seattle from May 1-5, 2016. A number of UPMC Eye Center faculty members will be presenting, including:

May 1, 2016
1:30 pm Morgan Fedorchak, PhD,  Development of a semi-permanent, controlled release antibiotic eye drop

May 2, 2016
11:30 am James Funderburgh, PhDCorneal stromal tissue regeneration by stromal-derived stem cells

May 3, 2016
3:45 pm Jeff Gross, PhDTet2 and Tet3 methylcytosine dioxygenases are required for retinal neurogenesis during zebrafish eye development

3:45 pm Larry Kagemann, PhDSchlemm Canal (SC) response to elevated intraocular pressure (IOP) varies with morphologic phenotype

For a list of additional posters and presentations by UPMC Eye Center faculty members, click here.

For  a full list of presentations, please view the ARVO program.

Stem Cells from Wisdom Teeth Can Be Transformed into Corneal Cells

PITTSBURGH, Feb. 23, 2015 – Stem cells from the dental pulp of wisdom teeth can be coaxed to turn into cells of the eye’s cornea and could one day be used to repair corneal scarring due to infection or injury, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. The findings, published online today in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, indicate they also could become a new source of corneal transplant tissue made from the patient’s own cells.

Corneal blindness, which affects millions of people worldwide, is typically treated with transplants of donor corneas, said senior investigator James Funderburgh, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology at Pitt and associate director of the Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration of UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh, a joint program of UPMC Eye Center and the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

“Shortages of donor corneas and rejection of donor tissue do occur, which can result in permanent vision loss,” Dr. Funderburgh said. “Our work is promising because using the patient’s own cells for treatment could help us avoid these problems.”

Experiments conducted by lead author Fatima Syed-Picard, Ph.D., also of Pitt’s Department of Ophthalmology, and the team showed that stem cells of the dental pulp, obtained from routine human third molar, or wisdom tooth, extractions performed at Pitt’s School of Dental Medicine, could be turned into corneal stromal cells called keratocytes, which have the same embryonic origin.

The team injected the engineered keratocytes into the corneas of healthy mice, where they integrated without signs of rejection. They also used the cells to develop constructs of corneal stroma akin to natural tissue.

“Other research has shown that dental pulp stem cells can be used to make neural, bone and other cells,” Dr. Syed-Picard noted. “They have great potential for use in regenerative therapies.”

In future work, the researchers will assess whether the technique can correct corneal scarring in an animal model.

Co-authors include Yiqin Du, M.D., Ph.D., Kira L. Lathrop, M.A.M.S., Mary M. Mann, M.S., and Martha L. Funderburgh, M.S.P.H., all of the University of Pittsburgh. The project was funded National Institutes of Health grants EY016415, EY009368 and EY008098; Research to Prevent Blindness; and the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh.

Pitt Researchers Receive $1.25 Million from Defense Department to Make Whole-Eye Transplantation a Reality

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 7, 2014 University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine researchers have been awarded $1.25 million from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to fund two projects that aim to establish the groundwork for the nation’s first whole-eye transplantation program. 

Offered through the DOD’s Vision Research Program, the grants support conceptually innovative research that ultimately could lead to critical discoveries or major advancements. The Pitt researchers will lead a multidisciplinary consortium that includes clinicians and scientists from Harvard University and the University of California, San Diego.

Although corneal transplants are routinely performed today,  whole-eye transplantation has remained an unrealized goal in vision restoration because of challenges related to immune rejection and reestablishing the connectivity of the optic nerve to the visual centers in the brain.

The Audacious Restorative Goals in Ocular Sciences (ARGOS) Consortium established at Pitt will be the first cross-disciplinary, systematic attempt to explore strategies to enable corneal regeneration, retinal cell survival, long-distance optic nerve regeneration with cortical integration and whole-eyeball transplantation.

“Recent advances in our understanding of retinal ganglion cell survival and successes with optic nerve regeneration in experimental studies strengthen our hope that whole-eye transplantation is an audacious yet achievable goal,” said principal investigator Vijay Gorantla, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of surgery in the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, and the administrative medical director of the Pittsburgh Reconstructive Transplant Program at UPMC. “Our experience with transplanting complex immunogenic tissues, such as the hand, will help us optimize treatments for rejection in eye transplants.”

According to the DOD, blast injuries are the most common for soldiers wounded in action, with up to 40 percent of blast injuries affecting the eyes. Approaches to minimize worsening of injury to the eye after trauma, preserve and protect residual retinal and optic nerve function, and restore vision are all goals that will be investigated.

“This is an aggressive program with very high-risk and high-reward scenarios. We’re excited to be leading the project and honored to be collaborating with global leaders in optic nerve regeneration,” said co-principal investigator Joel Schuman, M.D., chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Pitt School of Medicine, and director of the UPMC Eye Center. “By solving one facet of the problem at a time, the long dreamed-of goal of whole-eye transplantation may be possible with the promise of a better life for millions of patients worldwide.”

Sub-awardees of the current award include Jeffrey Goldberg, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego; and Larry Benowitz, Ph.D., of Harvard University.

In a related project  led by principal investigator Kia Washington, M.D., assistant professor of plastic surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the research team will focus on establishing baseline viability and structural integrity in an  animal model of whole-eye transplantation. The researchers will examine immune rejection and evaluate the usage of extracellular matrix therapy for improvement of optic nerve function after whole-eye transplantation.

“We have successfully performed an eye transplant in a small animal model,” said Dr. Washington. “This ongoing project may eventually lead to restoration of vision after trauma or degenerative disease.”

The Louis J. Fox Center for Vision Restoration will provide additional key funding for the whole-eye transplantation effort.

Welcoming New Faculty, Shyam Kodati, MD

Shyam Kodati, MD, FRCS, FRCOphth, has joined the UPMC Eye Center as a clinical assistant professor of ophthalmology. He is a graduate of Osmania Medical College in India. Dr. Kodati completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Royal College of Ophthalmology in London, and a fellowship in ocular oncology at the University of Toronto. He joins UPMC after working as an ophthalmic surgeon in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Kodati’s research interests include:

  • Retinal Imaging
  • Medical retinal conditions including ARMD and diabetic retinopathy



Welcoming New Research Faculty Michelle Sandrian, PhD

Michelle Sandrian, PhD, has joined the department of ophthalmology as an assistant professor. Dr. Sandrian received her doctorate in bioengineering from the University of Pittsburgh, where her research focused on optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging in the lab of Joel S. Schuman, MD, chair, UPMC Eye Center. Dr. Sandrian was a Whitaker Foundation International postdoctoral research scholar in Vienna, Austria, where her research focused on multimodal OCT and photoacoustic tomography (PAT) system development and multimodal contract enhancement.

Joel Schuman, MD, Interviewed by the Macular Degeneration Foundation

During the American Academy of Ophthalmology annual meeting, Joel Schuman, MD, was interviewed by the Macular Degeneration Foundation about the cutting edge programs at UPMC and the Fox Center for Vision Restoration. Watch Dr. Schuman’s full interview:

Please direct any follow up questions for Dr. Schuman to EyeCenter@upmc.edu

UPMC Eye Center to Present at ARVO Annual Meeting

Joel S. Schuman, MD, FACS, director, UPMC Eye Center, and other researchers from the UPMC Eye Center will present on a variety of topics at the annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). The meeting will take place May 5 to 9 in Seattle, WA.

Dr. Schuman, along with Gadi Wollstein, MD will lead a cross-sectional group discussion on technological advances in optical coherence tomography. They will explain how tools and procedures such as scanning laser ophthalmoscopy and photoacoustic ophthalmoscopy are now used in imaging and how functional measurements such as ocular blood flow and oxygen tension are currently used in In Vivo investigation.

In addition, Ian Sigel, PhD, will present on two topics entitled, “Optic Nerve Head Biometrics” and “IOP Elevation Reduces the Waviness of the Load Bearing Collagen Fibers in the Lamina Cribosa.

Attendees also are invited to join the UPMC Eye Center at the annual Alumni and Friends reception where they will congratulate Dr. Schuman, who was a co-recipient of the 2012 Champalimaud Award. The reception is scheduled for Friday, May 4, at 7 p.m., at the Fairmont Hotel Seattle. Please email Lauren Wally or call (412) 864-3283 for more information or to RSVP.

Glaucoma Research Collaboration

Joel S. Schuman, MD, director, UPMC Eye Center, and Ken Nischal, MD, chief, pediatric ophthalmology at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, recently traveled to India and attended a workshop entitled, “Developing Research Capabilities and Assessing Research Priorities in Glaucoma.”

The purpose of the workshop was to advise and collaborate with a group of dedicated researchers to help generate evidence that will aid in the development of short term and long term goals of glaucoma research in India.

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