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Utah Population Database Helps Glaucoma Researcher Learn More About Disease


Barbara Wirostko, MD, a clinical adjunct associate professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology, saw an opportunity to learn more about glaucoma through using a tool unique to Utah —the Utah Population Database.

The database, housed at the University of Utah, is one of the world’s richest sources of in-depth information that supports research on genetics, epidemiology, demography, and public health. For more than 30 years, researchers at the University of Utah and other institutions have used the database to identify and study individuals and families that have higher than normal incidence of cancer or other diseases, to analyze patterns of genetic inheritance, and to identify specific genetic mutations.

Wirostko used the database to uncover a better understanding about a specific type of glaucoma that is difficult to treat. She is presenting her findings —and will outline how the database helped her do it—at this week’s Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting in Orlando. Her poster "High Risk Pseudoexfoliative Families Identified in the Utah Population Database" is among those on display for the thousands in attendance at the event.

The central component of the database that Wirostko used to carry out her work is an extensive set of Utah family histories, in which family members are linked to demographic and medical information. The database includes diagnostic records about cancer, cause of death, and medical details associated with births. It also includes claims data from statewide inpatient hospital discharge records as well as ambulatory surgery records from hospital outpatient departments and ambulatory surgery centers. The database provides access to information on more than 7.3 million individuals and supports more than 100 research projects. This information can only be used for biomedical and health-related research; the privacy of individuals represented in these records and confidentiality of the data is strictly protected.

Learn more about Wirostko’s work.

Learn more about the Utah Popluation Database.