Ohio State researchers set sights on preventing trauma-induced vision loss

Posted: August 17, 2023

Approximately 2.4 million eye injuries occur in the U.S. each year, with nearly 35% of those injuries impacting younger patients. In the military, up to 10% of all injuries affect the eyes, often caused by metal shrapnel, dirt, cement and other objects from explosions.

Prof. Katelyn Swindle-Reilly works in her research lab.
Associate Professor Katelyn Swindle-Reilly, an expert in ocular drug delivery, works in her research laboratory in Mars G. Fontana Laboratories.

Retinal detachment and traumatic optic neuropathy are common outcomes of both blast and blunt trauma that can result in vision loss due to complications. Treatments for these conditions are complex and currently limited. New research from The Ohio State University could lead to a novel, naturally derived therapy to restore vision following traumatic injury to the retina and optic nerve.

Biomedical and Chemical Engineering Associate Professor Katelyn Swindle-Reilly leads a multidisciplinary team that received a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Defense to develop a sustained therapeutic protein cocktail and drug delivery system to prevent vision loss after a traumatic eye injury.

“This research has the potential to overcome significant limitations in the current limited treatment paradigms for retinal detachment and optic neuropathy which do not address inflammation as a key pathological mechanism,” Swindle-Reilly explained. “Local and sustained drug delivery through an easily injected system will enable rapid point-of-care injury treatment with lasting therapeutic effects while minimizing systemic side effects.”

The research team includes co-principal investigators Andre Palmer, professor and associate dean for research in the College of Engineering; Matthew Reilly, associate professor of biomedical engineering; Shigeo Tamiya, associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences; Lianbo Yu, associate professor – clinical of biomedical informatics; and Julie Racine, director of the Visual Electrophysiology Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Dr. Colleen Cebulla, professor and vice chair for research in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, is a collaborator.

The collaborative project combines Swindle-Reilly’s expertise in drug delivery to the eye with Palmer’s novel anti-inflammatory therapeutics, and utilizes unique in vivo models developed by Cebulla, Reilly and Tamiya. Yu, a biostatistician who has powered studies for statistical significance, will analyze the data.

In the short-term, the researchers will study how the therapeutic cocktail impacts inflammation and visual outcomes after an eye injury, as well as the safety and efficacy of the treatment in preclinical models. If successful, the proposed research also has the potential to advance treatment strategies for other vision-threatening diseases in which inflammation and oxidative stress are implicated.

“We envision this new therapy could be delivered locally at the site of ocular injury, mitigating damage due to excessive free radical generation that arises from the inflammatory response—preserving visual function,” Swindle-Reilly said. “If successful, this has the potential to significantly improve long-term visual outcomes and quality of life for injured civilians, warfighters and veterans.”

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications, clevenger.87@osu.edu

Categories: ResearchFaculty