Research Area Directory
Pioneering research by the UAB Department of Ophthalmology into retinal disorders, specifically age-related macular degeneration, has led to major scientific breakthroughs. Age-related macular degeneration is one of the most common ocular disorders in the U.S., and there is no cure.
Glaucoma is the leading clause of irreversible blindness and due to the aging population its prevalence is expected to more than double by 2050. The department is involved in multiple lines of basic and clinical research of glaucoma. That research includes investigations into intraocular, structure and function of the optic nerve head with glaucomatous damage, basic and clinical research into the role of age and race in the development and progression of glaucoma, and health services research into novel care delivery models in increase the accessibility of glaucoma care.
This program uses principles of engineering to understand the mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of ocular disease such as glaucoma, myopia, keratoconus, and age-related macular degeneration, as well as the biomechanics of ocular trauma. This exciting, underdeveloped field has the potential for significant breakthroughs in the diagnosis treatment of ocular disease.
Vision Impairment and Low Vision
The department and the UAB Center for Low Vision Rehabilitation provide a multidisciplinary approach to treat the broad physical, social and emotional needs of patients whose vision cannot be corrected by glasses, contacts or other treatments. Additionally, department faculty members conduct research into low vision rehabilitation, pediatric vision impairment and adjustment issues related to chronic illness, such as low vision.
The Callahan Eye Hospital, home to the UAB Department of Ophthalmology, is a world-renowned leader in ocular trauma. In 2011 the UAB Callahan Eye Hospital was designated as a Level One Ocular Trauma Center — one of only two in the nation. The department has developed new techniques and specialized tools for eye trauma surgery, and faculty members have also founded major organizations representing the ocular trauma field.
Adaptive Optics Imaging
The development of novel adaptive optics imaging techniques and devices is a top priority for the department and will help accelerate research of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma and other ocular disorders.
Health Disparities and Services Research
Health services research in ophthalmology is the study of access to eye care, how much it costs, and what happens to patients as a result of care, with the goal to identify the most effective ways to organize, manage, finance and deliver high quality eye care, reduce medical errors, and improve patient safety. Health disparities research examines differences in the incidence, prevalence, and burden of eye diseases, vision impairment, and blindness among specific population groups in the Unites States.
UAB conducts clinical research into innovative diagnostic techniques and therapies of ocular melanoma and childhood retinoblastoma cancers. Although both of these conditions are rare, they are both devastating diagnoses for the patient. UAB is performing novel genetic profile biopsy techniques for ocular melanoma and conducting experimental clinical trials to increase survival. Plaque brachytherapy research involving differing doses of iodine 125 radioactive plaques is currently being evaluated in an attempt to decrease the recurrence rate and increase the complete regression rate of ocular melanoma. Department faculty members are working with investigators at the Children’s Hospital of Alabama oncology service and the UAB Department of Radiation Oncology on these programs.
Vision and Eye Movements
This research focuses on the visual system and eye movements in health and disease, and specifically studies the neural pathways involved in coordinated movement of the eyes, as well as the non-image forming retinal pathways involved in circadian rhythms, light-evoked pupillary responses, sleep, migraine and mood.
In addition to a strong clinical practice in neuro-ophthalmology, the department conducts clinical and basic science research into neuro-ophthalmic diseases such as papilledema and non-glaucomatous optic neuropathy. Scientists are using new imaging technologies to better delineate the structural changes within the deep optic nerve following injury. This research will help increase the understanding of the pathophysiology of various optic neuropathies.
Uveitis entails numerous inflammatory diseases of the eye, affecting all ages, but primarily occurs during one's peak working years. Uveitis is responsible for approximately 10 percent of the blindness in the U.S. The UAB Department of Ophthalmology seeks to understand mechanisms by which uveitis is initiated and perpetuated through basic science research on the role of complement activation in a model of disease. The department is also involved in clinical studies into mechanisms behind disparities in disease severity and outcomes in various ethnic groups. Through these programs novel therapies as well as better use of existing therapies can be developed to reduce the burden of this condition.
The department is involved in multiple lines of pediatric vision research ranging from pediatric vision impairment to amblyopia. Although it is rare for children to have permanent vision impairment, it is highly significant because it is a life-long impairment. We are addressing the visual focusing and reading abilities of children with vision impairment. Amblyopia is a leading cause of visual loss in children. As many as 3 to 5 percent of otherwise normal children may be at risk for developing amblyopia, and without treatment during childhood, the condition often becomes irreversible and may lead to a lifetime of decreased binocularity and visual disability. The department has been involved in multicenter clinical trials comparing treatment options such as various patching regimens and/or Atropine eyedrops, thereby helping to improve compliance as well as visual outcomes for children and teenagers suffering from amblyopia.