Retina Research

Fellows are encouraged to be involved in clinical or laboratory research during the Fellowship. Each fellow must present a research project at least once during their fellowship at the department's annual Research Conference.

The Vitreoretinal Service is actively involved in clinical and laboratory investigations. The Fellows have access to the Experimental Surgery Unit as well as all laboratories within the Department if arrangements are made with the appropriate supervisors of those laboratories. An EyeSi vitrectomy simulator is also available to fellows at the Veterans Affairs Hospital.

The UI Institute for Vision Research has its own pharmaceutical grade, clinical Good Manufacturing Practice (cGMP) facility that is wholly dedicated to novel gene and stem cell therapies for humans with genetic eye diseases. The Retina Service is a regular site for major nationwide collaborative studies including:

  • Gene therapy for Leber Congenital Amaurosis Trial (phase II/III sponsored by Spark Therapeutics)
  • Gene therapy for exudative AMD (phase I)
  • Combination anti-VEGF/PDGF therapy for wet AMD
  • Combination anti-VEGF/ang-2 therapies
  • Multicenter Uveitis Steroid Treatment (MUST) Trials
  • Visual cycle modulator for dry AMD
  • Comparisons of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Treatments Trial (CATT)
  • VIEW1 (VEGF-trap)
  • The Collaborative Ocular Melanoma Study (COMS)
  • Choroidal Neovascularization Prevention Trial (CNVPT)
  • Submacular Surgery Trials (SST)
  • Complications of Age-Related Macular Degeneration Prevention Trial (CAPT)
  • Protein Kinase C Inhibitor Study of Diabetic Retinopathy
  • The Vitreoretinal Service has functioned as both an investigative center and as the national Photography Reading Center for the Collaborative Ocular Melanoma Study (COMS).

Research studies in large and small animals utilizing novel therapies focused on gene replacement and autologous, CRISPR-corrected stem cells are being conducted by Drs. Elliott Sohn, Steve Russell, and Ed Stone at the UI Institute for Vision Research.

Examples of Our  Faculty Research



Michael Abramoff, MD, PhD

  • Develop novel methods for computer aided diagnosis and image analysis - combining clinical ophthalmology, visual neuroscience, and bioinformatics to study the phenotypes and genotypes of these diseases.
  • Our team has developed image analysis algorithms that simulate visual processing by the human brain to improve existing image analysis techniques. We are starting to test the image processing algorithms on larger groups of patients collected through our retinal imaging networks.
  • We aim to make computer-aided diagnosis and digital retinal imaging for the screening, diagnosis and measurement of diabetic retinopathy, age related macular degeneration and glaucoma, patient friendly, low-cost and effective.

H. Culver Boldt, MD

  • Clinical research on ocular melanoma and other ocular neoplasms
  • Clinical research on proliferative vitreoretinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration

Arlene Drack, MD

  • Research focused on inherited eye diseases that affect children, particularly in the development of novel treatments.
  • A research project of particular interest is the development and application of mouse models of retinal degeneration. We use subretinal injection of molecules to evaluate treatment in mouse models of retinal degenerations, in preparation for future human trials.

James C. Folk, MD

  • Clinical and Translational Research on Ocular Inflammatory Disease and  Diabetic Retinopathy

Robert F. Mullins, PhD

  • Cell and molecular biology of age-related macular degeneration and inherited retinal degenerations

Stephen Russell, MD

  • Research focus is on evaluating treatments for retinal disorders, typically through clinical trials.
  • Currently investigating gene replacement therapy to treat Leber's congenital amaurosis, as well as evaluating a light cycle inhibitor to treat the atrophic form of age-related macular degeneration termed geographic atrophy.

Elliott Sohn, MD

  • Translational and clinical research related to retinal diseases, especially
    • age-related macular degeneration: from stem cell therapies to clinical trials to basic mechanisms of the pathophysiology especially related to genotype
    • diabetic retinopathy: tissue and image-based analysis in mice and humans with focus on pathophysiology and treatment
    • inherited macular dystrophies and retinal degenerations: gene and stem cell therapies in pigs and humans (2 clinical trials underway with more upcoming) as well as phenotype-genotype correlations

Edwin M. Stone, MD, PhD

  • Diagnosis, mechanistic understanding, and treatment of a wide variety of inherited retinal diseases