Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dallas Sight-saving Organizations Establish National Model for Patient-centered Medical Research

Karl Csaky, M.D., Ph.D.

As a physician, one of the most frustrating things is to tell a patient there is nothing we can do. We know patients are desperate for new and better treatments.

In order to pioneer new treatments for many blinding eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, two of the country’s leading eye research institutions founded and based in Dallas -- Texas Retina Associates (TRA) and the Retina Foundation of the Southwest (RFSW) -- recently moved into new offices under the same roof. This arrangement is unique among clinics in the United States and will allow researchers and clinicians at the two institutions to work more closely together, finding cures for many retinal diseases for which there are no effective treatments. For example, ongoing research in dry age-related macular degeneration allows for patients suffering from this disease to have renewed hope.

An example of this type of collaborative work led to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis treatment for blind patients. The Argus II is an implant that allows images, which are captured by a camera on glasses to be transmitted to the brain, thus allowing the brain to perceive patterns of light corresponding to the captured images. The RFSW was one of seven sites in the world to research the effectiveness and safety of the Argus II device in providing sight for blind patients and continues to partner with Second Sight Medical Products to refine and advance this revolutionary technology. The RFSW’s Chief Scientific and Executive Director David Birch, Ph.D., was the principal investigator of the Dallas site, and TRA’s Rand Spencer, M.D., was the surgeon.

TRA physicians and RFSW scientists have worked closely together for more than 30 years to identify new treatments like this for many of the leading causes of vision loss in millions of people throughout the world.

In the last five to 10 years, as medicine has become more efficient, a void has emerged in patient-oriented research. Many of the traditional academic research institutions have been forced to cut back, and they also face great challenges in meeting the demands for efficiency. The new shared TRA/RFSW facility allows us to better meet those demands, attract additional clinical trials, and more quickly and easily translate research from the lab to patient care. It is allowing us to push the envelope on our knowledge and understanding of retina diseases, as well as how to best treat those conditions. This type of research partnership is a new model that I believe many others will look to replicate across the country.

Karl Csaky, M.D., Ph.D., serves as a vitreoretinal specialist at Texas Retina Associates as well as the T. Boone Pickens Senior Scientist and Director of the Molecular Ophthalmology Laboratory at the Retina Foundation of the Southwest.

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