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Basic Science Research

Research Faculty

J.H. Boatright, PhD
Vincent Thomas Ciavatta, PhD
Eldon E. Geisert, PhD
Rashidul Haque, PhD
P. Michael Iuvone, PhD
John M. Nickerson, PhD
Paul W. Wong, PhD
Hua Yang, MD, PhD

From its inception, Emory Eye Center's scientific research laboratory has been home to award-winning scientists who dedicate their lives to understanding the mechanisms of catastrophic eye diseases that afflict people globally. 

Their scientific discoveries have significantly contributed to ophthalmic research knowledge, advancing treatment for patients suffering from eye cancer; hereditary cataract; diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration and other retinal degenerative diseases; idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and gene therapy. 

Research projects are conducted in collaboration with the Georgia Institute of Technology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morehouse College of Medicine and the Veterans Administration Medical Center.

Our researchers publish the award-winning journal, Molecular Vision, [Founding editor Jeffrey Boatright; Editor in Chief John Nickerson], a peer-reviewed online journal dedicated to the dissemination of research results in molecular biology, cell biology and the genetics of the visual system. The journal is rated second in a field of 14 competing journals and is routinely used as an open access exemplar by the National Library of Medicine and The National Institutes of Health Library. The journal is supported by Knights Templar and through initiatives generated in the Department of Ophthalmology.

Research projects are funded by major granting agencies and foundations (NIH, VA, DoD, Foundation Fighting Blindness, Knights Templar), as well as private donations.

Research Scientists

Jeffrey Boatright, PhD

Recent findings by ARVO Gold Fellow Jeffrey Boatright, in collaboration with researchers at Atlanta VA Medical Center, from a study of an animal model of age-related macular degeneration, are the first to suggest that aerobic exercise can have a direct effect on retinal health and vision.

His independently-funded laboratory conducts research initiatives on gene therapy and neuroprotection in treatment of retinal degenerative diseases in the expectation that pharmacological neuroprotectants will delay vision loss while gene therapies will provide permanent relief. 

Vincent Thomas Ciavatta, PhD

Dr. Ciavatta is research scientist at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. Motivated by the desire to find treatments and cures for retina degenerative diseases, Dr. Ciavatta engages in 3 main research areas: understanding the mechanism of neuroprotection from retina electrical stimulation, DNA repair in the retina, and predictive health.

Eldon E. Geisert, PhD

Eldon Geisert is developing new research strategies that he hopes will translate into treatments that may be used on the battlefield and later in the hospital. He is also defining genetic networks associated with the risk of developing glaucoma.  Identifying the genetic differences that lead to glaucoma is the central research goal being addressed by a new $1.5 million grant awarded to him from the NEI.  Geisert affirms that understanding the genetic causes of glaucoma will aid in early detection of individuals at risk for developing the disease, and it may lead to more effective treatments for this blinding disease.

P. Michael Iuvone, PhD

Current Director of Vision Research, Michael Iuvone, studies the impact of circadian rhythms on retinal function.  An ARVO Fellow, Iuvone received the Senior Scientific Investigator Award from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) in 2010. His laboratory conducts neuroprotective studies examining brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) receptor agonists.  He recently published, Circadian rhythms and Us (with fellow editors Gianluca Tosini, Morehouse College of Medicine, Douglas G. McMahon, Vanderbilt University, and Shaun P. Collin, University of Western Australia.) The book aims to further the study of retinal neurobiology and provide a resource for clinicians on how daily changes in retinal function may influence treatment outcomes. His laboratory's research in collaboration with former Atlanta VA researcher Machelle Pardue, PhD, on the use of dopamine-restoring drugs in the treatment of  diabetic retinopathy was published in the Journal of Neuroscience in January 2014.

John Nickerson, PhD

ARVO Gold Fellow John Nickerson's research centers on retinal degenerative diseases and the genetics behind them. He studies pharmacological and gene therapy approaches to slowing or preventing these degenerations.

Timothy W. Olsen, MD

ARVO Gold Fellow Timothy Olsen research is focused on age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Dr. Olsen and Dr. Xiao Feng developed the Minnesota Grading System (MGS) for AMD, a system that enables a clinical assessment of human eye bank tissue for subsequent testing of disease causing biochemical and molecular pathways.

Collaborative work at the Yerkes Primate Center is investigating an experimental surgical procedure designed to address near end-stage macular disease. Dr. Olsen also collaborates with numerous drug delivery experts. He and co-workers have described novel methods of drug delivery such as the suprachoroidal route drug delivery. Novel studies on the use of aerosolized drug delivery to control PVR (proliferative vitreoretinopathy, or scar tissue formation) also represent an ongoing pre-clinical area of funded study. Dr. Olsen’s lab is designed to replicate the current modern vitreoretinal surgical arena.

Hua Yang, MD, PhD

Uveal melanoma is the most common malignant ocular tumor in adults. Metastasis results in the high mortality rate after recovery or removal of the primary tumor. Dr. Yang’s research interests are the control of metastatic melanoma from the eye to the liver with anti-angiogenesis and immune modulation therapies and understanding of the mechanisms of metastatic disease and exploration of targeted therapy based on biomarkers for primary and metastatic uveal melanoma.

Paul Wong, PhD

Retinal degenerative disease is a major health care burden. Dr. Wong's research interests focus on the understanding of the mechanism behind retinal degeneration. His research is taking traditional human genetic approaches to characterize specific human retinal dystrophies, as well as more functional molecular approaches to studying gene expression in animal models of retinal degeneration in order to dissect out processes and pathways that may underlie the degenerative condition.

Additional Websites (Links)

Atlanta Vision Research Community (AVRC)

NEI Vision Core site

 

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