Studying and deciphering vision-related diseases is complicated by the delicate structure of the eye itself. While biopsies and samples from many other bodily systems are relatively easily obtained by physicians, collecting the vitreous fluid from within the eye is a more challenging task and often fails.
The lack of a standardized process to collect and assess the vitreous fluid of individual patients limits the ability of physicians to accurately diagnose and treat many major eye diseases, such intraocular infections, intraocular inflammatory disorders (uveitis), tumors, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy (DR).
Taubman Scholar Thomas Gardner, MD, MS, and colleagues Jeffrey Sundstrom, MD, PhD from Penn State University and Lauro Ojeda, MS from U-M’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, are developing a safe and cost-effective tool to obtain patients’ vitreous fluid, right in the eye clinic setting.
Now, he and his team are working to standardize the analysis of the fluid at the molecular level – “oculomics” – seeking biomarkers that will enhance understanding of the disease process and response to treatment.
They are working with Alexei Nesvizhskii, PhD in U-M’s Department of Pathology and Christopher Gates, MS in the Bioinformatics Core to interrogate a repository of patient samples to develop new computational tools physicians will use to compare their patients’ samples to a large database to pinpoint the optimal treatment for specific individuals.
The ability to collect, analyze and compare patient samples as part of routine diagnosis and treatment holds the potential to significantly advance the approach to blinding eye diseases and improve options for patients.