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AEVR’s World Glaucoma Week 2013 Briefing Features Real-Time
OCT Imaging

Gadi Wollstein, M.D. (University of Pittsburgh) speaks
Gadi Wollstein, M.D. (University of Pittsburgh) speaks
On March 7, AEVR’s Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative hosted a Congressional briefing entitled Glaucoma Imaging: Fighting a Leading Cause of Blindness during World Glaucoma Week 2013, co-sponsored by all major glaucoma societies and research organizations (see box below).

Glaucoma is a complex, neurodegenerative disease of the optic nerve and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) that robs individuals of both peripheral and central vision. As reported by the National Eye Institute (NEI), it is the second leading cause of preventable vision loss in the United States, affecting all age groups and disproportionately affecting the African American and Hispanic populations. Since it often has no symptoms until late in the disease course, researchers around the world are studying methods for early detection and for assessing disease progression, specifically how structural changes detected by advanced imaging techniques, such as Spectral Domain Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), may be associated with vision changes.

Featured speaker Gadi Wollstein, M.D., an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh and Director of its Ophthalmic Imaging Research Laboratory, emphasized that glaucoma damage is irreversible, so it is critical to detect glaucoma and its progression as early as possible in order to start or modify treatment. He stressed that structural changes in the optic nerve and RNFL may be predictive of glaucoma and how OCT is valuable as a means by which to measure these changes—in comparison to baseline images for an age group or population and in relation to a patient’s own previous images. OCT, which displays a three-dimensional and cross-sectional view of the retina and not just the superficial view of its surface provided by conventional imaging technologies, enables layers of the retina to be seen and analyzed with respect to structural changes associated with glaucoma and other blinding eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. To demonstrate that OCT is a non-invasive, high-speed technology, Carl Zeiss Meditec’s David Speer conducted real-time imaging of both of AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky’s eyes, the images of which were analyzed by Dr. Wollstein. Mr. Speer also conducted real-time imaging of staff members’ eyes.

“OCT has been the most rapidly adopted technology in eye care,” said Dr. Wollstein who explained that, although it was commercialized by industry, it was initially developed with National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and its use today complements NEI’s portfolio of research into the genetic basis of glaucoma and the development of diagnostics and therapies. “We have come a long way in understanding glaucoma, but we still have much to learn, especially as to why it occurs disproportionately in some populations,” he concluded.

Dr. Wollstein visited the offices of his Pennsylvania delegation, including Senator Robert Casey (D-PA), Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA), and Cong. Michael Doyle (D-PA). Since the prior day the House passed a Continuing Resolution to fund the government for the remainder of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 that included the 5.1 percent sequester cut and the Senate was considering its version of a bill, Dr. Wollstein impressed upon staff that his research is almost solely funded by NIH/NEI and could potentially be affected by budget cuts or flat funding.

The first World Glaucoma Day was held on March 6, 2008, and the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 981, which recognized the event and supported the NEI’s efforts to research the causes of and treatments for glaucoma. Since 2010, the day has expanded into a week of events held worldwide, with all major glaucoma professional societies and research organizations co-sponsoring AEVR’s 2013 event, including:

American Glaucoma Society (AGS)
Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)
Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF)
Optometric Glaucoma Society (OGS)
The Glaucoma Foundation (TGF)

Cong. Gene Green (D-TX), co-chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with oversight authority of NIH, provides a welcome
Cong. Gene Green (D-TX), co-chair of the Congressional Vision Caucus and a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with oversight authority of NIH, provides a welcome
AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky has both eyes imaged real-time by Carl Zeiss Meditec’s David Speer, who also imaged staff members’ eyes and explained the results
AEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky has both eyes imaged real-time by Carl Zeiss Meditec’s David Speer, who also imaged staff members’ eyes
Left to right: Dr. Wollstein with Theo Merkel in the office of Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA
Left to right: Dr. Wollstein with Theo Merkel in the office of Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Left to right: Doug Hartman from the office of Senator Robert Casey meets with Dr. Wollstein prior to attending the briefing
Left to right: Doug Hartman from the office of Senator Robert Casey meets with Dr. Wollstein prior to attending the briefing