Research in Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

Medical Education and Research Facility

The Carver College of Medicine is internationally recognized for its excellence and leadership in biomedical research. Among public medical schools, the College of Medicine ranks 11th in NIH funding in both the number of grants and total grant dollars per research faculty in public medical schools. In 2013, Stephen A. Wynn made a $25 million gift to the University. The Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research continues to garner funding for its ground-breaking research.

Carver College of Medicine faculty have been awarded approximately half of the University's total research funding and more than 80 percent of its National Institutes of Health funding. The University of Iowa is at the forefront among research universities in this country, and its contribution has been nationally recognized by such eminent authorities as the Carnegie Foundation, which classified The University of Iowa as having "very high research activity" among research universities.

The Laboratory for Disease Gene Discovery (LDGD), directed by Val C. Shefffield, MD, PhD, has as its primary goal the identification and characterization of genes involved in hereditary human disease with special emphasis placed on the study of hereditary retinopathies including age-related macular degeneration. The main strategies used by the laboratory are the use of genetic mapping methods and genomic resources to identify disease genes based on their position within the genome and/or putative function. The LDGD has developed thousands of highly polymorphic human genetic markers and novel genetic mapping methods to aid in the efficient mapping of disease loci. In collaboration with the MOL, the LDGD has succeeded in the mapping of over thirty human disease loci, and the identification of ten disease-causing genes including genes involved in glaucoma, macular degeneration and syndromic retinopathies (Bardet-Biedl Syndrome).

The Iowa Glaucoma Center, directed by Dr. Wallace L.M. Alward, researches the causes of glaucoma and develops tools to aid in diagnosis and treatment.

The Glaucoma Genetics Laboratory, directed by John Fingert, MD, PhD, is dedicated to identifying these genes and investigating their role in the development of disease with the ultimate goal of preventing vision loss by improving diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma.

The Glaucoma Cell Biology Laboratory, directed by Markus Kuehn, PhD, is located in the Medical Education and Research Facility. The goal of this laboratory is to determine the molecular events that lead to retinal ganglion cell death in a variety of retinal diseases. While the research focus is glaucoma, the lab is also investigating ganglion cell death in retinal ischemia and other optic neuropathies, such as idiopathic intracranial hypertension.

The Chorioretinal Degenerations Laboratory is directed by Rob Mullins, PhD. The major focus of this laboratory is to understand the cellular and molecular basis of macular diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), central serous retinopathy and Best vitelliform macular degeneration.

The laboratory is exploring the role of the choroid in the development of AMD and other diseases. It is also looking at the pathogenesis of other macular diseases including Best disease, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, Leber congenital amaurosis, retinitis pigmentosa, uveitis, and other acquired and inherited diseases of the retina.  It utilizes animal models, human donor eyes, cell culture approaches, biochemical methods and genetic resources unique to the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration to approach this problem.

The Iowa Visual Field Reading Center is directed by Chris A. Johnson, PhD. The University of Iowa Visual Field Reading Center was established to provide clinicians and researchers a means to quickly access and evaluate both raw and processed visual field data and to provide timely feedback to researchers, clinicians, and patients. The Center's main operations are centered around a team of visual field experts led by Director Chris A. Johnson, PhD and Assistant Director, Michael Wall, MD. The Center is located at the Oakdale Research and Technology Innovation Campus.

Mahajan LaboratoriesVinit Mahajan, MD, PhD, directs a laboratory with research projects in genomics, phenomics, proteomics, and microsurgery of the retina and vitreous.

Research in Gene Therapy for eye diseases is under the auspices of Stephen R. Russell, MD and Arlene V. Drack, MD. The University of Iowa is a leader in finding genetic causes of common and uncommon eye diseases such as Leber congenital amaurosis (LCA).  Under the Carver Family Center for Macular Degeneration in the Department of Ophthalmology Institute for Vision Research, Drs. Russell and Drack are collaborating with pioneer gene therapists at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to treat children blind from birth with Leber’s congenital amaurosis. In addition Drs Drack and Russell are investigating gene replacement therapies and gene directed therapies in mice for other inherited retinal conditions.

Stem Cell Research for retinal, eye and related diseases is directed by Budd Tucker, PhD. New to the UI in 2010, Dr. Tucker’s research on combining state-of-the-art patient-specific stem cell and biodegradable tissue engineering technologies for the treatment of blinding retinal degenerative diseases has earned a 2010 National Institutes of Health Director's New Innovator Award.

Computer-Aided Diagnosis. Dr. Michael Abramoff and coworkers have established large retinal imaging networks in the Midwest of the United States and the Netherlands, with widespread networks of retinal cameras connected through the internet to the University of Iowa, for screening of diabetic retinopathy. The research combines clinical ophthalmology, visual neuroscience and bioinformatics to study the phenotypes and genotypes of diabetic retinopathy, age related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

Many of our faculty are investigators for the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Visual Loss at the Iowa City Veterans Administration Medical Center. Investigators: Randy Kardon, MD, PhD; Michael D. Abramoff, MD, PhD; Chris A. Johnson, PhD; Markus Kuehn, PhD; Young H. Kwon, MD, PhD; Thomas A. Oetting, MD; Milan Sonka, PhD; Michael Wall, MD.

See additional information at The Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research. The WIVR supports and coordinates the vision research activities of nine existing research units at the University of Iowa.  

Information about our Diagnostic Laboratories