The Carl Camras Center for Innovative Clinical Trials is a dedicated center of excellence for clinical research. This center will enable the department to bring scientific breakthroughs to patients in clinical studies. The research team has expertise in conducting clinical trials that lead to novel therapies for a variety of eye diseases. New therapies developed by the research scientists in the Truhlsen Eye Research Laboratories, in UNMC’s Durham Research Center, also will be brought to patients in clinical trials.

Retina Research Team:

Diana V. Do, M.D. (Director of the Carl Camras Center for Innovative Clinical Trials and vice chair for education)

  • Drs. Diana Do, Quan Dong Nguyen, Thomas Hejkal, Eyal Margalit and their research team have expertise in conducting clinical trials that have led to the development of new treatments for eye diseases such as:
    • Wet Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): leading cause of blindness among individuals ages 55 years and older in developed countries. The research team was a major contributor to clinical trials that established vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) blockers as the new standard treatment for wet AMD. The research team continues to study new agents that may work in combination with VEGF blockers to further improve vision outcomes.
    • Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): the most common form of AMD. The research team investigates novel therapies for advanced dry AMD.
    • Diabetic Eye Disease: leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. The research team has led clinical trials that provided scientific evidence for the beneficial use of VEGF blockers for diabetic macular edema. Physicians are currently investigating new drugs that may further save sight in patients with diabetic eye disease.
    • Ocular Inflammation: scientists are studying new therapies that suppress the immune system in order to treat blinding inflammatory diseases that affect the eye.
    • Retinal Vein Occlusion: common condition that can affect the retinal veins and lead to vision loss. The research team contributed to clinical trials that led to therapies which dramatically improved vision in patients with this condition.
    • Ocular Imaging Research and Reading Center (OIRRC): An advanced facility that allows novel research to be conducted to advance knowledge in ocular imaging, which will aid in the diagnosis and management of ocular diseases. The OIRRC also will enable the Truhlsen Eye Institute to be at the forefront of clinical research, serving as the coordinating and reading centers for national and international clinical trials.

Eyal Margalit, M.D., Ph.D.

  • Dr. Margalit studies ways to improve therapeutic treatment for retinal disease by examining the use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs as a potential alternative to steroid injections.
  • In collaboration with Wallace Thoreson, Ph.D., Dr. Margalit also studies the use of retinal prosthetic devices that use electrical stimulation to restore sight in people suffering from retinitis pigmentosa and macular degeneration.
  • In conjunction with this research he also is works with investigators at the Naval Research Laboratory on developing a high resolution retinal implant device.

Glaucoma research team: Carol Toris, Ph.D., and Shan Fan, M.D., Vikas Gulati, M.D., Sushma Rai, M.D.

  • The research team studies the effects of glaucoma on fluid flow within the eye and how it can be treated with different medications, lasers and drainage devices.
  • Other studies are focused on the circadian and postural regulation of eye pressure and drainage in the eye, pressure lowering mechanisms of new medications and the potential contribution of diabetes to glaucoma damage.
  • Yet other studies are looking at the effects of glaucoma and drug therapy on ocular blood flow, the influence of growth, puberty and racial background on normal physiological fluid flow in the eye, and comparison of clinical techniques to measure intraocular pressure.

Wallace Thoreson, Ph.D. (vice chair for research)

  • Dr. Thoreson’s lab combines state-of-the-art electrophysiological and imaging techniques to study the physiology of retinal neurons and vision.
  • His research focuses on the essential role calcium channels and glutamate receptors play in sending visual messages to the brain from the rods and cones in the eye. Over-stimulation of these channels and receptors can promote nerve cell damage due to stroke, ischemia and in a number of eye diseases including glaucoma.

Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine: Iqbal Ahmad, Ph.D.

  • Dr. Ahmad’s lab is focused on understanding and finding new ways to treat retinal degeneration that causes devastating vision loss in diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and glaucoma, using stem cells.
  • His lab explores a variety of approaches that might one day be used to treat degenerative changes simply by activating stem cells that exist in adult retina or by transplanting stem cells from other sources such as limbal and ES/iPS cells, grown in the lab.
  • They are advancing new ways to treat the wet form of age-related macular degeneration through targeted therapy that has been shown to reduce abnormal blood vessel formation in animal models.

Lens research team: Toshimichi Shinohara, Ph.D., Dhirendra (D.P.) Singh, Ph.D., and Nigar Fatma, Ph.D.

  • Recent studies have found that age-related cataracts, which develop in more than 90 percent of individuals over age 70, are associated with something called the unfolded protein response. Depressed blood circulation can induce this response in elderly patients and may contribute to age-related cataract formation.
  • The researchers have identified a protein, peroxiredoxin, as critical for preventing oxidative damage that can cause cataracts and other degenerative disorders. This protein is a therapeutic target for treating age-associated eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration.

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