Can Corneal Stiffness Predict Vision Loss from Glaucoma?

Michael Julien Alexandre Girard, PhD
Imperial College London (London, England)
Year Awarded:
2011
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2011 to December 31, 2014
Disease:
Glaucoma
Award Amount:
$100,000
Grant Reference ID:
G2011019
Award Type:
Standard
Award Region:
International

Co-principal Investigators

Nick Strouthidis, MBBS, MD, MRCOphth
Moorfields Eye Hospital

In Vivo Corneal Biomechanics: A Biomarker for Glaucoma?

Summary

In this project we are exploring the relationship between the mechanical behavior of the cornea, a structure located at the front of the eye, and glaucoma - a potentially blinding condition which affects the optic nerve head, a structure located at the back of the eye. Specifically, we are looking to see whether understanding and quantifying corneal mechanical behavior in humans can be used to predict the likelihood of glaucoma, and of visual loss from glaucoma. This endeavor will have important implications for the diagnosis and management of glaucoma, one of the world's leading causes of blindness.

Details

Drs. Michael Girard and Nick Strouthidis will explore whether the stiffness of the cornea, i.e., the clear “window” at the front of the eye, can predict glaucoma, a blinding ocular disorder characterized by mechanical damage at the back of the eye. An optical coherence tomography scanner will be used to image in great detail how all ocular tissues, including both the front and back of the eye, respond to a change in intraocular pressure (the pressure that maintains the shape of the eye). Such testing will allow them, for the first time ever, to deduce the stiffness of the entire eye in glaucoma patients and establish a correlation between these stiffness and vision loss. They envision one day assessing glaucoma risk by measuring the stiffness of patients' corneas in the clinic.

Research Updates

Dr. Girard’s and Strouthidis’ team spent the first year of the award developing novel engineering tools for future use in diagnosing glaucoma at the clinic. The team needs to further improve the proposed tools and confirm that they work by comparing the results with clinical data obtained from currently-available methods.

About the Researcher

Dr. Michael Girard is the recipient of the prestigious Imperial College Junior Research Fellowship in the Department of Bioengineering at Imperial College London. He completed his Ph.D. at Tulane University, gaining expertise in experimental and computational soft tissue biomechanics and investigating the role of scleral biomechanics in glaucoma. Although strong evidence now suggests that biomechanics plays a major role in glaucoma, concrete proofs are still lacking. Girard's current research aims to provide such proofs. Specifically, he intends to quantify, for the first time, optic nerve head and corneal biomechanics in vivo and understand their association with glaucomatous vision loss. The findings of his research can potentially be translated to the clinic in the form of novel biomechanically-based diagnostic tools and therapies for glaucoma.