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Collaborative Research


A flurry of activity surrounds the new James Cancer Hospital as it rises from the recently poured foundation and reminds us of the great heights which can be achieved when individuals are dedicated to one purpose.  A modern medical center, like the human body, is made up of a multitude of complex systems interacting to achieve a goal. These systems, though independent, rely on each other for support.

Ophthalmology is devoted to a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach that utilizes the unprecedented resources, technology, and expertise of the OSU Medical Center and helps us improve the lives of our patients.

When investigating new chemotherapy agents, Oncology’s Miguel Villalona, MD and Greg Otterson, MD and Hematology’s Kristie Blum, MD rely on Ophthalmology’s Steven Katz, MD, a neuro-ophthalmologist, to monitor their patients for ocular toxicity.

Dr. Katz’s specialization also makes him invaluable to Neurology’s Aaron Boster, MD who specializes in Multiple Sclerosis (MS).  Since MS can cause serious ocular problems, Dr. Katz plays a vital role in the evaluation of new therapeutic MS treatments. 

Ophthalmology’s Paul Weber, MD (Glaucoma) and Andrew Hendershot, MD (Anterior Segment) have teamed up with Anesthesia’s Hamdy Elsayed-Awad, MD and Urology’s Ronney Abaza, MD to investigate the ocular effects of Trendelenburg positioning and anesthesia during robotic surgery.  Since Trendelenburg positioning, where the feet are elevated above the head, can put added pressure on the head, Drs. Hendershot and Weber will be studying the intraocular pressure and optic nerve of patients during robotic surgery.

Neurology’s J. Lane Moore, MD is also collaborating with Dr. Hendershot on a study of patients with partial seizures taking Pregabalin versus placebo.  Since Pregabalin can cause vision problems, Dr. Hendershot monitors study participants for changes in their visual field.

Susan Koletar, MD from Infectious Diseases began investigating therapeutic vaccinations for HIV patients and called on Rebecca Kuennen, MD of Ophthalmology Anterior Segment Division to evaluate the ocular health of participants.

“It’s extremely gratifying,” said Dr. Kuennen, “to be a part of a clinical trial for a vaccination that could make such an impact on patient lives.”

Two members of Ophthalmology’s Retina division, Colleen Cebulla, MD, PhD and Michael Wells, MD are assisting Michael Go, MD of Heart & Vascular Center to understand the feasibility of using bone marrow concentrate for the treatment of critical limb ischemia, a severe blockage in arteries of the lower extremities.  The bone marrow will promote better vascular health, but, because it is a systemic treatment, it will affect all parts of the body, including the eye.  Dr. Cebulla and Dr. Wells examine the blood vessels in the back of the eye to ensure that the treatment does not negatively affect the vision of study participants.

Dr. Cebulla and Retina Division Director Alan Letson, MD, have partnered with Endocrinologist Kwame Osei, MD on multiple projects.  Dr. Osei is a national leader in the field of diabetes, a condition that affects nearly 26 million Americans.  The ocular impact of diabetes is one of the more devastating effects of the disease. Left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can lead to severe vision loss or even blindness. 

Ophthalmologists, Drs. Cebulla and Letson, monitor the diabetic patients’ ocular condition, while they participate in Dr. Osei’s clinical trials comparing efficacy and safety of daily diabetic medications in patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Action to Control Cardiovascular Risk in Diabetes (ACCORDIAN) is another project on which Ophthalmology’s Dr. Letson and Endocrinology’s Dr. Osei collaborate.  It is the long awaited follow-up study to ACCORD, a landmark clinical trial which showed that combining intensive blood pressure medications and lipid therapies did not reduce the cardiovascular events in patients with diabetes.

“ACCORDIAN is part of a long-term set of studies,” said Dr. Letson, “that is looking at the associations of metabolic control and microvascular disease in target organs like the heart, the retina, the kidneys.  So our role is to monitor the improvement or progression in the eye; a small part of a very important study.”

Dr. Cebulla also assists Thomas Olencki, MD and Kari Kendra, MD, Oncology, with their cancer treatment trials.  Dr. Olencki is comparing current and new chemotherapy in patients with advanced or metastic melanomas; while Dr. Kendra is conducting a dose-escalation study in patients with solid tumors.

Another one of Ophthalmology’s Retina specialists, John Christoforidis, MD, has teamed up with Radiology’s Petra Schmalbrook, MD to develop a method for imaging veins behind the eye.  Using a 7 Tesla MRI and a magnifying coil, they hope to be able to pinpoint retinal vein occlusions enabling more precise treatment.

Dr. Christoforidis is also working with Radiology’s Michael Knopp, MD, PhD and Ophthalmology’s Frederick Davidorf, MD and Mohammed Abdel-Rahman, PhD to develop a non-invasive work-up of patients with ocular melanomas using MRI.

“When you know that you are helping to develop something entirely new,” said Dr. Christoforidis, “something that will give patients better outcomes, it’s exciting.”

In the College of Optometry, Aaron Zimmerman, MD is comparing the optical quality and impact resistance of football helmet faceshields.  Ophthalmology faculty that are involved in the project include Dr. Katz, Deborah Gzybowski, PhD, and W. Randall McLaughlin, OD.

Dr. Weber is collaborating with the College of Veterinary Medicine’s David Wilkie, DVM,MS, DAVCO to discover the efficacy and biocompatibility of indirect intraocular pressure monitoring using a telemetric sensor.

“One of the great things about working at Ohio State,” said Dr. Weber, “are the vast resources that are available to you. This allows wonderful opportunities for collaboration. These collaborations result in research findings that can then be taken into the clinical setting resulting in advancements in caring for our patients here and around the world.”

The stories are endless; as the conclusion of one partnership often gives rise to many more.  It is that undying spirit of collaboration that fuels our successes and ultimately brings our patients closer to seeing and feeling better; and that is one cause that everyone can support.

Find out how you can support collaborative research