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Biomedical engineers aim to improve treatment of military and civilian eye injuries


The U.S. Department of Defense recently awarded $390,000 to engineers at The Ohio State University to study novel treatments for traumatic optic neuropathy.

Profs. Matthew Reilly and Katelyn Swindle-Reilly stand in Reilly's laboratory.
Profs. Matthew Reilly (left) and Katelyn Swindle-Reilly (right) lead a study supported by the Department of Defense that will evaluate four drugs intended to prevent breakdown of the retina and optic nerve tissues following injury.

Eye trauma is the fastest growing type of injury in both civilian and military settings. Injuries to the eyes or head also frequently damage the optic nerve, which passes information between the eyes and brain. Known as traumatic optic neuropathy, this type of injury can lead to vision loss or permanent blindness.

“There is no current treatment for traumatic optic neuropathy, due at least in part to a lack of suitable animal models for evaluating drugs which could improve visual function after injury,” said Biomedical Engineering Associate Professor Matthew Reilly, who leads the study. “We have therefore developed animal models of this injury, as well as diagnostic tests by which the extent of visual deficit can be measured.”

An effective treatment for this condition could significantly improve visual outcomes and quality of life for those with eye injuries. Reilly and co-principal investigator Katelyn Swindle-Reilly, assistant professor of biomedical and chemical engineering, lead an interdisciplinary team of researchers that will evaluate four drugs intended to prevent breakdown of the retina and optic nerve tissues following injury.

Swindle-Reilly, an expert in ocular drug delivery, will assist with optimizing approaches to deliver the therapeutics directly to the injured optic nerve.

“By slowing or stopping these biological processes, it may be possible to retain or regain visual function,” Reilly said. “The drugs we have selected are also FDA-approved for other diseases and may be quickly used for treatment of traumatic optic neuropathy.”

The research builds on Reilly’s previous work to develop animal models for therapeutic screening and pre-clinical studies for evaluating therapeutics that prevent vision loss following traumatic optic neuropathy. Reilly has also collaborated with clinical ophthalmologists and visual electrophysiologists to develop diagnostic criteria for measuring vision loss after injury.

The research team also includes Julie Racine, director of the Visual Electrophysiology Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital; Dr. Colleen Cebulla, professor of ophthalmology and visual science at Ohio State; and Annie Ryan, a biomedical engineering PhD student.

This project could also provide preliminary data to direct preclinical studies of successful medications using a new animal model of traumatic optic neuropathy created by Reilly. Ultimately, it could lead to a drug that improves visual outcomes in all brain injuries.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,

Categories: ResearchFaculty