Breakthroughs and Advances

Our patient care, vision research and physician education results in medical discoveries and revolutionary treatments that bring new hope to patients with debilitating eye disease. USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute scientists drive fundamental and translational research to advance patient care by establishing relationships that foster innovation. Our physician scientists conduct clinical trials and train the next generation of ophthalmologists at clinical locations where patient-centered collaboration improves vision and fuels the development of new therapies.

Below are some of the USC Eye Institute’s accolades:

  • Ranked in Top Ten by U.S. News and World Report each year since rankings began in 1993
  • Ranked in Top Ten by Ophthalmology Times since rankings began in 1996
  • Ranked in Top Ten grant funding from the National Eye Institute to Ophthalmology Departments and Eye Institutes for many years

Below are some significant achievements by Department of Ophthalmology faculty (past and present) over the past 30 years:

  • Awarded more than 60 patents for innovations in eye care and vision research
  • Determined the causes of blindness and eye disease in a population study of Latinos (Varma)
  • Implanted the first successful retinal prosthesis in humans (Humayun, Weiland)
  • Received the first National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center grant awarded to an ophthalmologist (or any M.D.) (Humayun)
  • Identified electrolyte transport processes that drive formation of tear fluid in the lacrimal gland
  • Demonstrated the role of low androgen levels in the pathogenesis of dry eye
  • Identified the retinoblastoma gene responsible for the leading cause of ocular cancer in children (Murphree)
  • Discovered a novel retinal protein that may play a role in retinal degenerations such as macular degeneration (Fong)
  • Developed a new computerized system to analyze retinal images for the diagnosis and management of macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy (Sadda)
  • Pioneered the study of applying medication directly into the sub retinal space to treat wet macular degeneration
  • Described the anterior slit-lamp procedure for aqueous misdirection glaucoma
  • First demonstrated the in vitro flow properties of aqueous tube shunts
  • First to use a commercial prototype of an adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope (cone photoreceptors can be imaged)
  • First to use a commercial prototype of an adaptive optics scanning laser ophthalmoscope (cone photoreceptors can be imaged)
  • First analyzed the comparative histopathology of external and endoscopic cyclophotocoagulation (with UCSF)
  • Proposed and studied a new theory of dry eye as a local ocular surface autoimmune disease (Mircheff)
  • Implanted the first intraocular-sustained drug delivery device into human eyes west of the Mississippi (Phase I study of gancioclovir implant)
  • Developed and implanted the first intraocular radiation delivery device to be used in a human
  • Identified the mechanism and pathways (cytokines, transforming factors) of corneal fibrosis (Kay, Smith)
  • Identified the cascade from injury-mediated corneal inflammation to the final stage of the wound healing (Kay, Smith)
  • First clinical trial on intra-ocular brachytherapy for neovascular AMD
  • Development of a long-term intra-ocular drug delivery platform
  • Developed an intraocular pressure-sensing device that can be implanted or worn externally to obtain IOP data continuously and report data to a remote source
  • Demonstrated the impaired orthograde and retrograde axonal flow in lamina cribrosa in experimental glaucoma (Minckler)
  • Found that axonal transport obstruction causes disc swelling in ocular hypotony
  • Developed the vertical prism test that is widely used to diagnose amblyopia in preverbal children
  • Demonstrated the use of high-speed optical coherence tomography in the management of corneal scars, angle closure glaucoma, keratorefractive surgery and IOL implants
  • Demonstrated the clinical applications of very high-speed Fourier- domain optical coherence tomography in macular and optic nerve diseases
  • Developed and characterized the first animal model of “meibomian gland dysfunction” (Smith, Nicolaides)
  • Developed infrared photography of the meibomian glands “meibography” for research and clinical use. (Jester, Smith, Nicolaides)
  • Regularly reported the changing indications for penetrating keratoplasty in Southern California (Smith, Rao)
  • Developed a noninvasive glucose monitoring system using Raman spectrum signals from the aqueous (Borchert)
  • Evaluated potent antiviral drugs for ophthalmic use (Trousdale)
  • Made contributions that improved the formulation of commercial cornea storage medium
  • First video rate hyperspectral imaging of the retina in patients
  • First publication on large scale clinical surgical results with B+L TSV 25 gauge vitrectomy system
  • Contributed to development of treatment of astigmatism using excimer laser (McDonnell)
  • Identified unique mechanism of uptake in lacrimal gland for adenovirus 5 that may facilitate drug delivery (Hamm-Alvarez)
  • Developed a widely-used aqueous tube shunt for glaucoma patients (Baerveldt)
  • Discovered the potential antigen-presenting function of lacrimal gland secretory epithelial cells
  • Demonstrated the potential value of gene therapy for dry eye in an animal model of autoimmune dacryoadenitis
  • Developed first genetic animal model of Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (2012) (Sadun)
  • First West Coast provider of the PROSE (Prosthetic Replacement of the Ocular Surface Ecosystem) – a scleral device treatment (2009) (Chiu, Irvine)
  • Pioneered the use of ultra-high-speed Fourier domain OCT in glaucoma diagnosis (2000-2010) (Huang)
  • Developed an animal mode of autoimmune dacryoadenitis that mimics Sjorgen’s Syndrome (2002-2007) (Trousdale)
  • Developed the first head-mounted display visual field testing device (2005)
  • Showed the importance of oxygen radicals in causing retinal damage in uveitis (2005) (Rao)
  • Initiated work on the development of an artificial lacrimal gland (2004)
  • Developed the first internet-based screening visual field test (including a 3-D version) (2000-2003)
  • Characterized largest pedigree of Lebers hereditary optic neuropathy (2001) (Sadun)
  • Developed a model of the complex interactions that occur in Graves’ thyroid eye disease (1998) (Feldon)
  • Discovered that the cytokine tumor necrosis factor mediates apoptosis (cell death) in retinal ganglion cells, which may reflect the mechanism for some optic neuropathies (1996) (Sadun)
  • Proved that toxic, nutritional, and metabolic optic nerve disease are related to injuries to the mitochondria of nerve cells (1994) (Sadun)
  • Asked by a head of state to investigate a country’s epidemic of blindness (Cuba) (1993) (Sadun)
  • Showed the incidence of Kaposi’s sarcoma, an eye malignancy, and developed treatment options (1992) (Rao)
  • Diagnosed and developed treatments for various opportunistic infections in the eyes of patients with AIDS (1991) (Rao)
  • Developed the superior oblique tendon expander used in surgery for Brown syndrome and superior oblique over action (about 1990)
  • Described and suggested treatment for a blinding viral infection of the retina and named the new entity “Progressive Outer Retinal Necrosis” (1990) (Rao)
  • Discovered that changes to the optic nerve mirror the changes to the brain that occur in Alzheimer’s (1989) (Sadun)
  • Discovered that a decrease in axonal bundles in the optic nerve with aging correlates with the visual decline of aging (1987)
  • Developed a laboratory model of choroidal neovascularization now widely used to study pathogenesis and treatment of subretinal neovascularization (Ryan, Hinton, He) (1979)
  • Developed a laboratory model of penetrating eye injuries that influences the management of trauma in humans (Ryan, Hinton, He) (1978)