In Mayo Clinic's Department of Ophthalmology, care providers and scientists are dedicated to finding better options for people with vision impairments. Physician-scientists conduct a wide variety of research strategies across a spectrum of eye conditions to ensure patients have access to the latest, most-effective treatments available.
Eye specialists in the Department of Ophthalmology are involved at every level of research. In the lab, researchers detail the precise physiology of both normal eye functions and eye and vision diseases. They look at how cells function in each and how genes regulate them.
At the translational level, researchers seek to improve treatments, both surgical and nonsurgical. They do so by developing new drugs and analyzing best methods for surgical and transplant procedures.
When a promising treatment is ready to be introduced to the patient, Mayo Clinic researchers conduct clinical trials to measure the new treatment's effectiveness.
A key advantage of Mayo Clinic's ophthalmology research efforts is the scientist's access to vital infrastructure and specialists. For instance, ophthalmology researchers can work with biostatisticians and epidemiologists to leverage Mayo Clinic's extensive medical record-keeping system. Together, they can conduct comprehensive, retrospective studies to better understand the natural course of eye disease, the long-term outcomes of disease treatment and trends in the frequency of eye-related illness.
Other vital infrastructures include:
Through every stage of research, Mayo Clinic researchers work with colleagues and institutions throughout the country and the world.
The success of Mayo Clinic's ophthalmology research efforts have earned it decades-long funding from the National Institutes of Health as well as from the organization Research to Prevent Blindness and other private benefactors and foundations.
Cornea Research Program
The Cornea Research Program examines diseases and treatments related to the cornea, including:
- Cornea transplantation, a common procedure with a high success rate. Researchers examine its advantages and disadvantages compared to other treatments and who best benefits from the procedure.
- Fuchs' dystrophy, a common inherited disease that affects the inner lining of the cornea (corneal endothelium) that is responsible for maintaining the cornea's clarity. Investigators are seeking to identify genes that contribute to Fuchs' dystrophy, which may, one day, lead to a gene therapy.
- Laboratory cornea research is aimed at developing an effective way to freeze corneas, which would lead to true eye banking and an increase in available donor corneas.
- Laser vision correction is a common elective surgery, though its potential long-term consequences are not yet fully understood. Mayo Clinic researchers began studying a small group of patients who had the most common types of refractive surgery — LASIK and photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) — when the procedures were first introduced more than 20 years ago.
- Optical function is evaluated by the Cornea and External Eye Disease Service of the Department of Ophthalmology-Research at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The ability to see is the result of complex interactions involving all layers of the eye and the brain. The eye disease service explores how the cornea contributes to overall visual function.
Glaucoma Research Program
The Glaucoma Research Program seeks to:
- Understand the unique functions of the normal eye
- Determine the changes associated with normal and elevated intraocular pressure
- Learn the natural history of this blinding disease
- Develop and assess existing and new therapies to treat glaucoma
Research focuses on understanding why intraocular pressure is higher in patients with glaucoma, why intraocular pressure variations occur in people with and without glaucoma, new surgical procedures to reduce intraocular pressure, and the effectiveness of long-term treatments.
Low Vision Research Program
The Low Vision Research Program seeks to improve the quality of life for patients with visual impairments by applying a variety of techniques and technologies to help people use their remaining vision. The goal is for people with impaired vision to lead independent, productive lives.
The program examines how vision rehabilitation services affect quality of life, and researchers seek to develop methods to better assess the measured gains in visual function. Results of this work help determine which treatment strategies work the best and which structured rehabilitation programs are most effective for individual patients.
For a deeper look into all of Mayo Clinic Ophthalmology research activities, visit the Department of Ophthalmology-Research page.
See a list of publications by Mayo Clinic doctors on PubMed, a service of the National Library of Medicine.