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Initiatives in Action at Moran's Crandall Center for Glaucoma Innovation

Ike Ahmed, MD, FRCSC, is director of the Crandall Center.
Ike Ahmed, MD, FRCSC, has been leading a clinical study of the Calibreye System developed by Myra Vision, a laser-assisted device that would improve customized glaucoma treatments for patients.

The Alan S. Crandall Center for Glaucoma Innovation, led by Iqbal Ike K. Ahmed, MD, FRCSC, was created at the John A. Moran Eye Center to lead the field in four high-impact initiatives. Catch up on the latest below.

Surgical & Medical Therapeutics: Precision Medicine

Glaucoma provides a perfect example of why tailoring therapies and treatments to individual needs is widely viewed as the future of medicine.

“Precision medicine can make all the difference in glaucoma patients because the disease is so different for each person in terms of how fast it progresses and fluctuations in intraocular pressure,” explains Ahmed, an internationally renowned surgeon who consults on device development for more than 50 companies.

In September 2023, Ahmed began the first in-human clinical study of the Calibreye System developed by Myra Vision. After placing it in the eye, physicians can adjust this next-generation drainage device to decrease or increase drainage without additional surgery as a patient’s treatment needs change.

Since glaucoma progresses differently for each person, testing throughout one patient’s lifetime generates thousands of data points about intraocular pressure, corneal thickness, and rates of optic nerve deterioration.

Researcher and glaucoma specialist Brian C. Stagg, MD, has developed an analytic system to help physicians sort through the data to decide on the best treatments and timing for follow-up testing.

“My goal is to allow glaucoma doctors to assess the data more quickly and adapt it to their patients’ needs,” says Stagg. “It is personalized medicine at the point of care.”


Translational Research: Genetics Study

Thirty years after others told him there was nothing to be done for a leading cause of blindness among people 55 and older, initiative Director Gregory S. Hageman, PhD, and his team have changed our understanding of age-related macular degeneration, clarified its genetics, and developed a new therapy for its most prevalent form.

Now, Hageman is launching a large-scale study into glaucoma. A new partnership with a major pharmaceutical company will study thousands of proteins associated with the disease.

“Glaucoma is a complex disease that emerges as a consequence of the aging process, systemic factors, and genetic makeup, although the data on a major role for genetics is extremely weak,” says Hageman. “Our studies are designed to develop a rich understanding of glaucoma to discover gene-directed pathways to identify and develop new therapies.”

glaucoma research image
Microscopy and color labeling of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the cells that form the optic nerve and are damaged by glaucoma. Courtesy of Krizaj Laboratory members Monika Lakk, PhD, and Chris Rudzitis.

Neuroprotection-Based Therapies: Expanding Team 

Crandall Center Associate Director David Krizaj, PhD, and research collaborators from the University of Utah Department of Chemistry and College of Pharmacy are in the final stretch of experiments for a powerful new therapy to lower pressure associated with glaucoma and prevent optic nerve cells from dying—a function known as neuroprotection. Backed by a venture capital funder, he is conducting clinical studies as the last step before applying to the FDA to test in humans.

The initiative grew in January as neuroscience researcher Zachary Davis, PhD, joined the Moran Eye Center. Working with Alessandra Angelucci, MD, PhD, his lab is assisting in Crandall Center efforts to develop glaucoma disease models and techniques for studying the impact of glaucoma on visual perception in the brain. 

Another Moran collaborator, Frans Vinberg, PhD, plans to conduct testing on functioning human photoreceptor cells to study signaling when the cells are exposed to pressure.

Global Care: Physician Training in Africa

Glaucoma is severe in Africa, where an estimated 4% of the population over the age of 40 has the disease.

Moran’s Global Outreach Division has begun training three physicians in Mwanza, Tanzania, to detect glaucoma earlier and employ treatment options, including surgery, to preserve vision.

Initiative Director Craig J. Chaya, MD, who also serves as senior medical director of the Global Outreach Division, traveled with Moran Global Fellow Shawn Gulati, MD, MPH, to Tanzania in 2023 to establish a glaucoma fellowship training program. There, they are training Drs. Nuru Mwambola, James Shimba, and Frank Sandi. The division has also hosted medical professionals from Tanzania at Moran and started remote surgical mentorship training sessions.

“In low-resource countries, the focus has been on cataracts, and we have had great success in expanding access to that type of care,” says Chaya. “Now many people are looking to glaucoma because the disease is so prevalent.”

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