Category: Research

As COVID-19 Disrupts Education, Ophthalmology Residents Adapt

COVID Residents
Pictured above: Three of our many ophthalmology residents, all of whom continue their education amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Eric Weintraub

When Dr. Charles DeBoer, a second-year resident in the USC Department of Ophthalmology, learned that barrier shields meant to protect patients and physicians from COVID-19 droplet transfer were nationally backordered, he spent his own time and personal resources to build PPE customized for ophthalmic exams.

“I saw a barrier shield design in the paper, ‘Stepping up infection control measures in ophthalmology during the novel coronavirus outbreak: an experience from Hong Kong (2020)’ and thought the way they implemented infection control made sense,” said Dr. DeBoer. “So I copied it for our clinics and we refined the design.” In collaboration with co-resident Dr. Diana Lee and two attending physicians, Drs. Vivek Patel and Annie Nguyen, Dr. DeBoer created barrier shields out of polycarbonate sheets for slit lamps, the microscopes used to look into patients’ eyes.

Dr. DeBoer’s barrier shields now enable physicians to examine a patient closely while still reducing the risk of infection for them both at LAC+USC Medical Center (LAC+USC) and Keck Medical Center (KMC) ophthalmology clinics. This is only one example of how residents are adapting within the drastically disrupted learning environment due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

barrier shield slit lamp
Dr. DeBoer demonstrates how to assemble a slit lamp barrier shield.

In addition, residents are continuously implementing the latest COVID-19 industry responses provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). They are strengthening their history taking skills to learn more about their patients’ health histories, and have increased in-depth provider-to-provider discussions with their fellow residents, fellows, and faculty. Furthermore, residents are learning how to use new technology to provide telehealth services to meet patient needs.

“Telehealth allows us to perform a quick external exam of a patient’s eye,” said Dr. Hong-Uyen Hua, a second-year resident. “While it does not allow for a full assessment, it can help patients avoid in-office visits for non-urgent issues.”

Dr. Hua elaborated that patients often call with eye problems that can be resolved over the phone. Several patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have called with concern that they are developing an eye infection, as well. “In this situation, we ensure that the patient has no vision-threatening issues. We educate and counsel them on supportive care, emphasize the importance of social distancing, and make sure they practice good hygiene. As a result, we minimize exposure for everyone.”

Several residents expressed their belief that COVID-19 will permanently affect the ophthalmology landscape and that it has opened the door for telemedicine to play a more frequent role in the field.

Due to the California Governor’s Executive Order, as well as LA County requirements, clinic volume has been drastically limited to only treating patients with emergency eye conditions. The residency program has taken additional measurements to decrease the likelihood of a COVID-19 infection by having residents rotate in teams at LAC+USC, one week on and one week. In addition, KMC clinics are only seeing urgent patients and all elective surgeries have been canceled. Due to these changes, residents are not rotating in Keck clinics.

“The education and experience we get from seeing patients and operating on them has drastically declined,” said Dr. Ravi Shah, a third-year resident and co-chief resident. “This is likely going to affect different years of residents in different ways. For those that take advantage of the time to continue learning, it may be beneficial for them. But without that motivation, knowledge will quickly atrophy.”

Dr. Shah shared that away from clinic, residents are reading journal articles to stay updated on their respective fields and studying for their annual Ophthalmic Knowledge Assessment Program (OKAP) exams. In addition, the residency program’s education curriculum has quickly shifted to online learning. All faculty lectures and Grand Rounds continue to be conducted via Zoom.

Despite the disruption that COVID-19 has caused to the residents’ training, they share great pride in their colleagues’ resilience. “Too often likened to war, this pandemic has heroic troops battling this microscopic, insidious enemy every day,” said Dr. Hua. “When we chose medicine as a career, no healthcare worker imagined we would have to risk our own lives to save others. I am in awe of all of my colleagues on the frontline. I feel re-affirmed in my decision to choose medicine as a career and vocation during this unprecedented pandemic.”

USC Roski Eye Institute Researchers Report First Results in Stem Cell-Based Clinical Trial for Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration


Researchers, clinicians, scientists from the USC Roski Eye Institute and collaborators report encouraging results of a first-in-kind stem-cell based implant in a featured article in Science Translational Medicine entitled, “A Bioengineered Retinal Pigment Epithelial Monolayer for Advanced, Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration.”

The novel minimally invasive stem cell-based therapy for dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) was developed by a team at USC Roski Eye Institute, led by Mark S. Humayun MD, PhD, and David R. Hinton, MD, which was funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine. The implant consists of stem cell-derived retinal pigment epithelium cells (RPE) on an ultrathin synthetic substrate. The implanted scaffold of RPE are localized and can function to support and replenish light sensing cells of the eye, which would help restore and prevent vision loss in patients with AMD.

“This is the first human trial of this novel stem cell–based implant, which is designed to replace a single-cell layer that degenerates in patients with dry age-related macular degeneration,” says lead author and surgeon for the study Amir H. Kashani, MD, PhD, assistant professor of clinical ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “This implant has the potential to stop the progression of the disease or even improve patients’ vision. Proving its safety in humans is the first step in accomplishing that goal.”

Photo courtesy of Britney O. Pennington, PhD
Photo courtesy of Britney O. Pennington, PhD

The first results of the phase I/IIa clinical trial conducted at the USC Roski Eye Institute has been reported on four patients which were followed up to one year to assess safety. It was determined that the implant is safe and integrates well with the patient’s retinal tissue. One patient had improvement in visual acuity by up to 17 letters and two patients had gains in visual function, which was measured by how well they could use the area of the retina treated by the implant. None of the patients showed evidence of progression in vision loss.

Dry AMD can have a profound affect on the quality of life of an individual. In time as the disease progresses, patients will be unable to recognize faces, read or even drive. It is projected that over 3 million will be diagnosed with dry AMD by 2020.

“Our study shows that this unique stem cell–based retinal implant thus far is well-tolerated, and preliminary results suggest it may help people with advanced dry age-related macular degeneration,” says coauthor and lead inventor of the implant Mark S. Humayun, MD, PhD, director of the USC Institute for Biomedical Therapeutics, co-director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, affiliate principal investigator with the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC and University Professor of Ophthalmology at the Keck School.

Stem Cell AMD blog final
Other USC researchers include Biju B. Thomas, PhD; Debbie Mitra, PhD; and Danhong Zhu, MD, PhD.

Collaborating institutions for the study include Regenerative Patch Technologies LLC, which also contributed to the funding of the study, as well as Camtek LLC, the California Institute of Technology, Retina Vitreous Associates Medical Group, California Retina Consultants, Atlantis Eyecare, City of Hope, University of California, Santa Barbara and Denney Research Center. Additional sources of funding for the study include Lori Mars and David Fields Gift, Estate of Beatrice Apple, William K. Bowes Foundation, Vermont Community Foundation, Breaux Foundation, Wilcox Family Foundation and Research to Prevent Blindness.

For more information about the study, visit To participate in the study, please call (323) 442-6335.


Disclosures: Regenerative Patch Technologies LLC was founded by Mark Humayun, MD, PhD, and David R. Hinton, MD, from Keck Medicine of USC and Dennis O. Clegg, PhD, from the University of California, Santa Barbara. The technology to produce the stem cell–based retinal implant is exclusively licensed to Regenerative Patch Technologies LLC from the University of Southern California, the California Institute of Technology and the University of California, Santa Barbara. Humayun and Hinton have an equity interest in and are consultants for Regenerative Patch Technologies LLC.

J. Bradley Randleman, MD Visits Myanmar for Skills-Transfer Series


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USC Roski Eye Institute’s J. Bradley Randleman, MD, traveled to Myanmar for a week-long, skills-transfer series hosted by the Hawaiian Eye Foundation. The five-day Myanmar Eye Meeting (MEM) was held at the Yangon Eye Hospital, conducted by the Hawaiian Eye Foundation, and sponsored by Zeiss International and American Vision Myanmar. MEM was attended by over 100 Burmese ophthalmology students and practicing ophthalmologists.

This year’s MEM marked the country’s third MEM eye surgical training program since the country’s opening to democracy. A wide range of didactic topics were included: glaucoma, cataracts, plastics, neuro-ophthalmology, refractive, pediatric, corneal and retinal disorders were covered in lectures, patient consultations, and live surgery demonstrations.

J. Bradley Randleman, MD, led the Refractive Surgery program, and was one of many physicians who provided patient consultations for challenging surgical cases identified by the Yangon Eye Hospital attendings. All appropriate candidates had surgery with observation by the local attendings, and post-operative follow-up. Randleman performed surgery on patients that were “extremely high myopes (nearsighted) with prescriptions above -10D in both eyes (up to approximately -16D).” These patients were ultimately best suited for refractive lens exchange due to not only early cataracts, but also poor suitability for excimer laser ablation. The following day, Randleman performed a refractive lens exchange via phacoemulsification. He reflects, “The patients were doing well, and were extremely happy by appearance at their post-operative visit the following day.”

In addition to performing a refractive lens exchange, Dr. Randleman provided a four-hour long lecture series for Refractive Surgery. In this lecture, Randleman covered topics such as Refractive Surgical Screening, Corneal Topography Analysis, Refractive Cataract Surgery, Basic Refractive Surgical Techniques, Refractive Surgery Complications, and decision making and procedure planning for Refractive Surgery.

Myanmar has 350 ophthalmologists for all 55 million people. This represents a ratio of one ophthalmologist for 160,000 people, which is one-quarter of the World Health Organization’s target. Thus, the urgent need for ophthalmic training is pressing. Because of the event’s success, the Hawaiian Eye Foundation was invited to return for MEM IV in 2019, and also asked to expand to the Mandalay region of Myanmar for a similar training program. The Foundation’s efforts in Myanmar are amplified by its scholarship programs for SE Asian ophthalmologists and ongoing Vietnamese symposiums.

University of Zurich Features Farhad Hafezi, MD, PhD – International Collaboration on Corneal Disease Imminent

The University of Zurich’s September newsletter covers USC Roski Eye Institute’s faculty member, Farhad Hafezi, MD, PhD. Hafezi, director of the Ocular Cell Biology and Biomechanics Lab at the University of Zurich, has recently inaugurated the USC Roski counterpart – the Ocular Cell Biology & Biomechanics laboratory – along with USC Roski’s J. Bradley Randleman, MD. Hafezi and Randleman hope to create synergies between these two laboratories to advance time-efficient research on corneal diseases.

Original Article written by: Marita Fuchs, editor-in-chief at UZH-News.
Publication: UZH-News, Zurich University, September 6, 2017.


The Fight Against Blindness

UZH Eye Specialist Farhad Hafezi has developed a method that protects people from blindness. In order to further his research on the cornea, he also recently led a second research team at the USC Roski Eye Institute of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.


A blind child in India: Eye infections are often caused by bacteria and fungi (Picture: Silvia Jansen)

As of August 2017, Hafezi helped inaugurate the Laboratory for Ocular Cell Biology & Corneal Biomechanics at USC Roski Eye Institute that focuses on corneal diseases. Looking towards the future, he believes that collaboration concerning ​​corneal biomechanics is an advantage for both the USC Roski and UZH laboratories.

Cross-linking When The Cornea is Deformed

Several years ago, Hafezi co-developed the “cross-linking method” which can prevent and halt the progression of keratoconus. It is one of the most common causes of severe visual impairment in adolescent children in Western countries. Keratoconus is twenty-times more likely to occur in children with Down syndrome than the rest of the population. The disease causes a thinning and deformation of the cornea of ​​the eye. This creates a bulge that can eventually tear and lead to blindness. With corneal cross-linking, the tear can be ameliorated.

The cross-linking procedure involves opening the sealing layer of the cornea and applying vitamin B2 drops. By irradiation with UVA light, the B2-vitamin riboflavin is activated and the collagen fibers of the cornea are reconnected. This results in the cross-linking of the cornea and a close-meshed network, which stabilizes the cornea. Within minutes, the cornea is solidified, and further tears are prevented. “The success rate is between 93 and 97 percent,” says Hafezi.

It is a relatively simple procedure that can save a great deal of pain if used as soon as tears are detected. “Because children and adolescents are particularly affected, there is also a demand for pediatricians who should send the young patients to the ophthalmologist in time,” says Hafezi. Altogether, about 5,000 people suffer from Keratoconus in Switzerland.


UZH and USC Roski eye specialist Farhad Hafezi is in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,
the largest pediatric hospital in the USA (Picture: Fabio Schönholzer)

Cross-linking in Eye Infections

In 2008, Hafezi discovered with other researchers that the cross-linking method works not only with keratoconus, but also in infections of the cornea. Corneal defects are the third most common cause of blindness worldwide. The WHO estimates that about one million people are affected each year on the Indian subcontinent alone. Worldwide, there are about 6 to 8 million people per year.

In subtropical countries, common eye infections are caused by injuries like blunt trauma to the eye from shrubbery and tree branches. Thereafter, rapid infection is possible because bacteria and fungi transfer to the eye. In contrast, common eye infections in Western countries are caused by contact lenses.

As a general rule, antibiotics help with infections. However, what can be done when antibiotic intolerance and antibiotic resistance are present? According to Hafezi, the cross-linking method is a good alternative to taking antibiotics. With the cross-linking method, all bacteria are killed – even those that are antibiotic-resistant. Moreover, the method simultaneously kills fungi, which is a central cause of infections particularly in warm countries.

Cooperation with the Largest Children’s Hospital in California

Farhad Hafezi has an interesting career: he is a researcher, clinician, founder of a private institute, and was a professor and clinic director at the ophthalmic clinic of the University Hospital of Geneva. He then returned to the private economy for his clinical activities and then to the UZH, where he heads a team at the Center for Applied Biotechnology and Molecular Medicine (CABMM).

“It is important for me to uncover the root cause of corneal diseases, and I am looking for the best research conditions,” says Hafezi. In addition to his team at UZH, his second research laboratory at the USC Roski Eye Institute – the Laboratory for Ocular Cell Biology & Corneal Biomechanics – has proven to provide an impressive research infrastructure. “The Americans have not had much experience with the cross-linking method, so they are very interested in it,” says Hafezi. The collaboration with the largest pediatric research institution in the United States, the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), is of great advantage in Los Angeles because researchers still do not know how long the cross-linking therapy works for very young patients and children. Through the CHLA, Hafezi and his team now have a large pool of patients and patients for Phase 3 of his clinical trial of cross-linking. You can look forward to the result.


You can view and download the original article in German here.

Literacy Deficiency Found in Children with Uncorrected Farsightedness

USC Pediatric OphthalmologyThe University of Southern California (USC) Eye Roski Institute, one of the nation’s Top 10 ophthalmology programs according to U.S. News & World Report, is announcing a call to action for all parents and educators to ensure children receive proper eye exams at an early age. Through awareness, education and early interventions, the USC Roski Eye Institute believes we can stem the tide of recent pediatric eye disease sight that may contribute to a reduction in the younger generation’s quality of life.

A new National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded study highlights that preschoolers ages 4 and 5 with uncorrected farsightedness (hyperopia), where children have difficulty seeing close-up, performed poorly on literacy tests relative to those with normal vision.

Researchers in the Vision in Preschoolers-Hyperopia in Preschoolers (VIP-HIP) study implemented a Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL) test to examine the reading skills of 492 children.  Eye exams were conducted on all children prior to administering the TOPEL.  In the reported results, a substantial literacy deficit was observed in children with moderate farsightedness (3-6 diopters).  Relative to the mild form, moderate farsightedness is associated with an increased number of diopters, which is the unit of measure of lens power that is required to correct vision. Most notably in this study, children with moderate farsightedness and reduced near visual function such as depth perception, had significant challenges in the print knowledge domain of the test, which assesses the ability to distinguish letters and words.

Elise Ciner, O.D., professor at the Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University in Philadelphia, and co-investigator of the study stated that, “Preschool children with moderate hyperopia and decreased near vision may benefit from referral for assessment of early literacy skills.” Ciner also indicated that early interventions in these children might provide a better educational outcome.

While a small percentage of children known to have severe farsightedness are corrected with prescription eyeglasses, it is common for cases of moderate farsightedness to go undetected.  “This study adds to the growing concerns surrounding the prevalence of eye conditions such as moderate farsightedness in children,” says Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, who is the Chair of the USC Roski Eye Institute, Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and epidemiology expert in eye diseases.

The results of the VIP-HIP study come on the heels of the recently completed Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease Study (MEPEDS), conducted by researchers and clinicians from the USC Roski Eye Institute at Keck Medicine of USC in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, which assessed childhood eye disease in over 9000 Los Angeles area children ages 6 months to 6 years.

While 4-14% of children overall are found to have moderate farsightedness, the MEPEDS found that children in specific racial/ethnic groups are at higher risk of developing farsightedness. The prevalence of farsightedness (+2 diopters or greater) was highest in Hispanic (26.9%) and Non-Hispanic White children (25.7%), but lower in African American (20.8%) and Asian children (13.5%). Thus, non-Hispanic white and Hispanic children are twice as likely to be farsighted than Asian children. Two other significant observations made in the study were that moderate levels of farsightedness was associated with the development of both amblyopia (lazy eye- poor visual development in an eye) and strabismus (misalignment of the eyes).

“Studies such as these are crucial.  Knowing the risk factors associated with farsightedness along with the impact that it can have on the intellectual development of our children, should be considered when creating guidelines for screening and intervention in preschool children,” says Varma. “The results emphasize the importance of vision screening in children at an early age, as detection and treatment of farsightedness, can lead to a more promising future for our children.”

About the USC Roski Eye Institute

The USC Roski Eye Institute, part of the Keck Medicine of USC university-based medical enterprise, has been a leader in scientific research and innovative clinical treatments for 40 years. Among the top three funded academic-based medical centers by the National Eye Institute (NEI) research grants and ranked in the Top 10 ophthalmology programs in U.S. News & World Report‘s annual “Best Hospitals” issue for more than 20 years, the USC Roski Eye Institute is headquartered in Los Angeles with clinics in Arcadia, Beverly Hills and Pasadena.

Patients from across the country come to see the USC Roski Eye Institute experts who treat a comprehensive array of eye diseases across the life spectrum from infants to aging seniors. The USC Roski Eye Institute is known for its scientific research and clinical innovation including: creation of the Argus implant (also known as the “bionic eye”) for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) patients; stem cell therapies for those who have age-related macular degeneration; discovery of the gene that is the cause of the most common eye cancer in children; treatment for eye infections for AIDS patients; inventors of the most widely used glaucoma implant in the world; pioneers of a device for long-term intraocular drug delivery; and the first to use telesurgery to train eye doctors in developing countries.  For more information visit: or

Next, read USC Study Uncovers New Approach to Treating Dry Eye Syndrome

USC Study Uncovers New Approach to Treating Dry Eye Syndrome

USC Eye Injury Prevention TipsMillions of people suffer from the discomfort of dry eye syndrome. From irritation, redness, and sensitivity to light, dry eyes can make everyday life uncomfortable, to the say the least. Fortunately, researchers from the Fini Lab at Keck Medicine USC may have found that a possible solution to this overwhelmingly common condition could lie in a tear protein called clusterin.

“It is well known that clusterin protects cells and proteins,” said Shinwu Jeong, assistant professor of research ophthalmology in the Institute for Genetic Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the senior author of the study. “A problem in dry eye appears to be that natural clusterin is depleted. We predicted that adding it back would be beneficial. However, the novel mechanism of sealing was unexpected.”

During the study, researchers noted that clusterin helps seal the ocular surface, creating a protective barrier that helps prevent further damage.

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome is caused by chronic dehydration and poor lubrication of the ocular surface, causing a disruption of the barrier function. Many people develop dry eye as a result of environmental exposure, allergies, eye surgery, medications, or the effects of aging. While it may seem like a mild irritation, the condition can lead to vision loss if the cornea is scratched or damaged if left untreated long enough. Common symptoms include:

  • Inflammation
  • Burning sensation
  • Aching feeling
  • Soreness
  • Red appearance
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigued eyes

Typically, dry eye symptoms are treated with lubricating eye drops or artificial tears, as well as taking breaks from reading or using a computer or smartphone. Additionally, prescription eye medications may help increase tear production or reduce eye inflammation and irritation, but these treatment options fail to prevent the symptoms from returning.

A Promising Solution

Rather than studying the tear production, inflammation, and chemistry that causes or contributes to dry eyes, the USC researchers focused on the protecting the ocular surface barrier. By strengthening the barrier with clusterin, the researchers hope to not only prevent and treat dry eye, but also other corneal disorders in which the ocular surface barrier is damaged. The researchers were the first to examine how the clusterin tear protein functions in dry eye.

Other USC co-authors include faculty members Wendy Mack of preventive medicine, J. Martin Heur, MD, PhD of ophthalmology and Janet Moradian-Oldak of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

Learn More from USC Roski Eye Institute

If you or someone you love is suffering from dry, irritated eyes or other eye conditions, the USC Roski Eye Institute is committed to providing the solutions to make everyday life easier. To learn more from our renowned ophthalmology team and our treatment options, please do not hesitate to give us a call at (323)442-6335 or submit a contact form today.

For more information about the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute by making a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at (323)442-6335 or via email at

Next, read USC Roski Eye Institute Improves Image Sharpness in Retinal Implants

USC Roski Eye Institute Improves Image Sharpness in Retinal Implants

FDA Approved Retinal Prosthesis, Argus IIRetinitis pigmentosa (RP) is an inherited eye disease that causes gradual degeneration of the light sensitive photoreceptors in the retina, which eventually leads to total blindness. Roughly one in 4,000 people suffer from the debilitating disease; however, according to a recent study by researchers from the USC Roski Eye Institute and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, patients who have regained some vision with the help of revolutionary retinal implants may gain even better, sharper vision.

The Argus II retinal implant, also called the bionic eye, was developed by ophthalmologists and engineers at USC to help people once again perceive light through a pair of eyeglasses that feature a video camera mount and a video processing unit. The implant transforms images via the camera into electronic signals that are wirelessly transmitted to implanted electrodes in the eye in order to stimulate visual neurons.

While retinal implants have been able to provide blind individuals with some degree of vision, such as the ability to find large objects or detect motion, the devices also inadvertently triggered axons in the retina, resulting in reduced vision quality. When the axons are triggered, patients would see large, unusual shapes of light that interfere with the patients’ overall vision.

The USC researchers determined that by using various durations of stimulus pulses, it was possible to create more precise stimulus that would not interfere with the axons in the retina nearly as much as with shorter pulses. For example, electrical pulses of only eight milliseconds or shorter would stimulate the axons and obscure the patients’ vision, whereas pulses of at least 25 ms did not produce any signs of axonal stimulation, providing a clearer focal spot of light.

“Our findings further support that it is possible for patients with RP to see forms using artificial vision,” said James Weiland, PhD, professor of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering. “This makes a strong case for developing high-resolution retinal implants.”

What is Retinitis Pigmentosa?

RP occurs when the light sensitive cells (rods and cones) of the retina on the back of the eye begin to degenerate and die. The condition causes a gradual loss of vision as more and more of the retina cells stop working. The progression of RP will depend on which rods and cones are affected first. Some patients experience night blindness initially, while others may notice a decrease in central vision and color. The rate of progression will also depend largely on each patient.

Contact Our Expert Ophthalmologists Today

To protect your vision and ensure the highest quality of care, schedule an annual eye exam with the professional ophthalmologists at USC Roski Eye Institute. Regular screenings and exams will help accurately catch potential issues that may develop into serious eye conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa. Take preventative action early. Make an appointment with a skilled ophthalmologist today.

Help support the USC Roski Eye Institute by making a tax-deductible gift! Contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at today!

Next, read Prescription Medication May Help Reverse Vision Loss Caused by Diabetic Eye Disease in Certain Populations

Prescription Medication May Help Reverse Vision Loss Caused by Diabetic Eye Disease in Certain Populations

Diabetes and EyesA common prescription medication for age-related vision loss called ranibizumab may hold the key to successfully treating vision loss caused by diabetes in Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, according to a recent study led by researchers at USC Roski Eye Institute.

Currently, the standard treatment for diabetic macular edema and diabetic retinopathy, which are the leading causes of vision loss in working-age adults in the U.S, is typically laser surgery. Unfortunately, laser surgery has had relatively low success in treating the blurred vision of more advanced stages of diabetic eye diseases. Previous studies have found that only 30 percent of patients who underwent laser surgery experienced vision improvement.

What are Diabetic Retinopathy and Diabetic Macular Edema?

Diabetic retinopathy causes damage to the small blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye, resulting in distorted vision or blindness. The condition progresses through four stages, in which the tiny blood vessels swell, potentially bleed, become blocked, and increase in number, ultimately damaging the cells of the retina if not treated.

Diabetic macular edema occurs when fluid builds up in the central region of the retina called the macula. The macula helps provide sharp, clear details and allows people to recognize faces and read. This condition develops as a result of diabetic retinopathy and can occur at any stage.

The symptoms of both of these diabetic eye diseases include seeing floating spots, blurred vision, or total vision loss.

Groundbreaking Research

Using a population-based model, director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, professor and chair of ophthalmology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and Interim Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Rohit Varma, M.D., M.P.H., and his research team determined that providing at least .3 milligrams of the prescription medication ranibizumab every four weeks to patients with diabetic macular edema could reduce the number of vision loss cases by at least 45 percent and the number of legal blindness cases by up to 75 percent.

Nearly 37,000 Hispanic and non-Hispanic white adults who had been diagnosed with diabetic macular edema in the U.S. participated in the study. The researchers believe that even more populations and ethnic groups may benefit from the vision-saving effects of ranibizumab.

“We found that ranibizumab can save the sight of thousands of working-age individuals suffering from diabetic eye disease, as standard treatments such as laser are not as effective,” said Dr. Varma.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Our expert ophthalmologists at USC Roski Eye Institute have extensive training and experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of vision-threatening conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema. To receive a comprehensive exam and ensure that your eyesight is carefully monitored, please complete our online contact form or call 323-348-1526 today! Remember that annual eye exams are an essential step in long-term eye care.

To learn more about our services or to support the Institute with a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, via email at or by calling USC Roski Eye Institute.

Next, read February is National AMD and Low Vision Awareness Month

Today’s Cutting-Edge Advancements in Glaucoma Treatment

Diabetes and Eyes, Jet-Setting Health and MoreThe USC Roski Eye Institute has always been on the forefront of the latest advancements in glaucoma treatment. Our exceptional team of ophthalmologists have helped pioneer many of the life-changing treatment options now available for one of the most common causes of preventable blindness in the U.S. and worldwide.Interim Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, and glaucoma expert, Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, has not only led the way in improving glaucoma treatments, but he has also co-authored and co-edited several textbooks on the subject, including the recently released Advanced Glaucoma Surgery, to help provide a comprehensive source of cutting-edge information regarding advanced glaucoma surgical techniques for other ophthalmologists, researchers, and students.

The Glaucoma Service at the USC Roski Eye Institute offers comprehensive care and treatment for the full range of glaucoma conditions. The following are some of the most state-of-the-art advancements available for preventing, diagnosing, and treating the group of diseases that make up glaucoma.

Glaucoma Drainage Devices

The USC Roski Eye Institute researchers have developed an effective alternative to trabeculectomies and tube shunts that have traditionally been used to relieve intraocular pressure (IOP) issues that damage the optic nerve. The stent is no wider than a human hair and consists of collagen-derived gelatin. The stent can be safely injected into the eye to allow the eye’s anterior chamber to continue circulating and draining fluid in the inner eye. The glaucoma stents, such as iStent, can be implanted within a matter of minutes.

Intraocular Pressure Sensors

Researchers at the USC Roski Eye Institute are also currently working on novel intraocular pressure sensors that would be implanted in the eye to accurately and continuously measure IOP on a daily basis. While it is possible to gauge intraocular pressure during an eye exam, the internal pressure of the eye changes regularly throughout a single day. If the pressure raises too high, even temporarily, the optic nerve can be damaged, leading to vision loss. An intraocular pressure sensor would track an individual’s IOP and transmit the information to a wireless receiver for an ophthalmologist to analyze and monitor for signs of glaucoma.

Drug Delivery Systems

Glaucoma is a chronic eye disease that can be managed or slowed down with certain medications depending on the patient. However, administering the appropriate medication on a consistent basis, especially as eye drops, can be difficult for many patients. The USC Roski Eye Institute researchers have developed a minuscule implantable pump that can deliver medication at regular intervals directly into the eye. The implant is refillable and can be programmed and recharged with the convenience of a wireless device.

Advancing Eye Care at USC Roski Eye Institute

The board-certified ophthalmologists at the USC Roski Eye Institute are experienced at diagnosing and treating glaucoma as well as conducting clinical trials to help advance eye care treatments to prevent vision loss. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us by completing our online contact form or simply calling (323) 442-6335. We are located in Los Angeles, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, and Pasadena.

For more information about the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute by making a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, at 323.442.5396 or via email at

Next, read Find Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Glaucoma Awareness Month

3 Things You Should Know About Your Sight

New Study by USC Roski Eye Institute Shows RanibizumaOur eyes are highly complex organs that are almost constantly working, both voluntarily and involuntarily. Even while we sleep, our eyes move in connection with brain activity as we dream and recharge for the next day. Needless to say, we rely heavily on our eyes to properly function, yet often fail to take the appropriate measures to ensure that they will continue working well into our old age.

At USC Roski Eye Institute, we place the utmost importance on helping people of all ages learn about proper eye health and what to do in the event that their vision is impaired. The following information will help put the health of your sight in perspective.

1. 80 Percent of Disease-Related Vision Loss Can be Treated or Prevented

The World Health Organization recently reported that as much as 80 percent of all visual impairment can actually be prevented or cured through education about proper eye health, better access to high quality care, and annual screenings. The most common eye conditions that can lead to blindness include cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma, which often do not present any noticeable symptoms during the early stages of development. Therefore, it is crucial to schedule regular eye exams as often as recommended, based on your age, health, and family history, even if your sight seems to be perfectly fine. Early detection is the best defense against vision loss.

2. Diabetes is the Leading Cause of Blindness Among Americans

Diabetes is a metabolic disease that puts individuals at a significantly higher risk of developing certain eye diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. While proper diet and exercise is important for everyone at any age, diabetics must take special care to not only manage their diabetes, but to also ensure that the disease does not damage their eyesight. Diabetes may be the leading cause of blindness in America, but it is possible for diabetics to protect their vision by also taking control of their overall health.

3. Two Thirds of all Blindness and Vision Loss Occurs in Women

Prevent Blindness, a volunteer eye health and safety organization, recently determined that women make up the majority of Americans who suffer from visual impairment or blindness and that one in four women has not had an eye exam in the last two years. One reason that women are particularly at risk for vision issues is hormones. Whether pregnant, taking birth control pills, or going through menopause, fluctuations in hormones can influence overall eye health, causing high blood pressure, light sensitivity, and diabetic retinopathy.

Schedule an Appointment Today

At the USC Roski Eye Institute, our expert ophthalmologists have extensive training and experience diagnosing and treating a wide variety of eye conditions in men, women, and children. To receive a comprehensive eye exam and ensure that your vision is carefully monitored, please complete our online contact form or call 323-442-6335 today!

To learn more about the services at the USC Roski Eye Institute or to support the Institute with a tax-deductible gift, please contact Rebecca Melville, senior director of development, via email at or by calling USC Roski Eye Institute.

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