May 15, 2013

Glaucoma researchers to study biomechanics of eye

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University of Alabama at Birmingham investigators in the Department of Ophthalmology have received a $1.125 million grant from the National Eye Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health, to study the biomechanics of the eye and its role in the risk of developing glaucoma.

Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the developed world, and the elderly and individuals of African descent are at an increased risk of developing the disease.

Elevated pressure in the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP), is believed to contribute to damage to the optic nerve head, which occurs with glaucoma. The primary investigators, Crawford Downs, Ph.D., and Christopher Girkin, M.D., are examining whether age- and race-related differences in the biomechanics of the optic nerve head may contribute to this risk.

The researchers will combine high-resolution, three-dimensional reconstructions of the optic nerve head with principles of biomechanical engineering to study the mechanical effects of elevated IOP in glaucoma. The long-term goal is to develop clinical diagnostics and interventions designed to manage each important biomechanical risk factor in the development and progression of glaucoma.

“This project is a great example of the collaborative spirit between clinicians and scientists at UAB,” said Downs.