Bench to Bedside and Back

Preserving and restoring sight for patients suffering blinding eye disease is the core of the Duke Ophthalmology research mission.

Duke Ophthalmology aims to discover important new knowledge about biology of the eye, gain better understanding about the causes, mechanisms, diagnosis and treatment of eye disorders, translate research innovations into new care modalities and to train the next generation of researchers.

Research at Duke Ophthalmology is by no means isolated in a single laboratory or subspecialty - it’s embedded in every patient visit.  Truly “bench to bedside and back.”   The central location of the largest multi-disciplinary Duke Eye Center clinic, the Albert Eye Reserach Institute, which houses research facilities, and proximity to Duke University campus allows a multi-dimensional, approach -- making Duke Eye Center an international leader in ophthalmic research.

There are two types of research which are inter-related and continuously in progress within Duke Ophthalmology.  

Research News

The Glaucoma Gene Optineurin Protects Against Viral Infection in the Eye and Brain

Duke glaucoma specialist Henry Tseng, MD, PhD discovered an important novel function for a gene called Optineurin through a collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of virologists at the University of Illinois Chicago over many years.  This gene is associated with glaucoma, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and may play a role in other neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases. This exciting work was reported in two recently published papers in Nature Communications and Journal of Immunology. 

Osteopontin: A Newly Identified Biomarker for Early Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly in the Western World. The dry clinical sub-type of this disease occurs in approximately 85% of patients and is characterized by the accumulation of extracellular deposits in the posterior pole of the eye. The exact mechanisms involved in the growth and development of these deposits, which are similar to those that form in systemic and neurodegenerative diseases such as atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease, is not known. Additionally, there are no therapies available to patients with dry AMD.

Using Big Data to Drive Advancements in Ophthalmology

One-of-a-kind database created at Duke helps researchers to conduct large-scale, complex diagnostic studies using artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning models

When asked what inspired him to develop the Duke Ophthalmic Registry — what is believed to be the nation’s largest single-institution multimodal database of ophthalmic records — Felipe Medeiros, MD, PhD, responded by simply saying, “meaningful research requires big data.”  

Duke-led Research Teams Receive Norins Awards to Explore the Germ Hypothesis of Alzheimer’s Disease

Two Duke-led research projects exploring the role that infections or microbes might play in Alzheimer’s disease have received $50,000 Duke/UNC Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center Norins Pilot Awards. The Norins Pilot Awards, coordinated by the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, are intended to stimulate and support collaborative, innovative research on the potential role of microbes or pathogens in the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.  

Two projects were selected for funding from a highly competitive field of proposals: