The Role of Waste Removal in the Visual Pathway in Glaucoma

Kevin Chan, PhD
New York University School of Medicine (New York, NY)
Year Awarded:
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July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2021
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US Northeastern

Recipient of the Thomas R. Lee Award for Glaucoma Research 

Kevin Chan, PhD

The Role of Brain Waste Clearance System in Glaucoma


Recently, a new hypothesis emerged that suggests the involvements of the brain waste clearance system called glymphatic system in the pathogenesis of glaucoma, yet its exact role remains largely unexplored, partly due to limited imaging methods to monitor the glymphatic system and the associated structural and functional changes in the visual system. This study will address this critical issue, by determining the cerebrospinal fluid dynamics along the optic nerve and the corresponding visual system impairments using advanced, multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging in several experimental animal models involving changes in eye pressure, brain pressure and water channel function.


The overall goal of this project is to better understand glaucoma mechanisms by determining the pathophysiological events and disease progression in the brain’s visual system using novel, multi-parametric magnetic resonance imaging techniques in experimental glaucoma models. Currently, the only clinically proven glaucoma intervention is lowering intraocular pressure in afflicted individuals. However, glaucoma may continue to progress in some patients even after lowering intraocular pressure to normal levels, which indicates that other undetermined key factors may be contributing to the disease. The results of this study will not only provide new insights into the brain involvements that occur during the process of glaucomatous neurodegeneration, but also are likely to suggest new strategies for targeting glaucoma treatment beyond lowering eye pressure.

About the Researcher

Dr. Chan is the director of the Neuroimaging and Visual Science Laboratory at New York University School of Medicine. His laboratory focuses on developing and applying new, noninvasive methods for imaging degeneration, development, protection, plasticity, and regeneration in the visual system. His research aims to better understand interactions among the eye, the brain, and behavior in health and disease in order to guide vision preservation and restoration. Dr. Chan has over 10 years of experience in structural, metabolic, and functional imaging research of the eye and the brain in humans and animal models of glaucoma and other visual impairments. He completed his doctoral studies in biomedical engineering (neuroimaging) at the University of Hong Kong and was awarded the Li Ka Shing Prize for the best PhD thesis. He is a Junior Fellow of the International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine (ISMRM) since 2010, and was a Fulbright scholar in 2009–10. Dr. Chan received the Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator award in 2014 and the BrightFocus Foundation National Glaucoma Research award in 2013, 2016 and 2019. In 2015 he was selected by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research as an emerging vision scientist. In 2018 he received the Research to Prevent Blindness/Stavros Niarchos Foundation International Research Collaborators award and the Asia-Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Achievement award. In 2019 he received the Thomas R. Lee Award for Glaucoma Research. Dr. Chan currently serves as the deputy editor of the neuroimaging section of the Journal of Magnetic Resonance Imaging, associate editor of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and editorial board member of Frontiers in Brain Imaging Methods, Quantitative Imaging in Medicine and Surgery, and Neural Regeneration Research. He also serves as the vice-chair of the ISMRM Publications Committee, as well as an Annual Meeting Program Committee member of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.

Personal Story

This is our third BrightFocus Foundation National Glaucoma Research Award on glaucoma neuroimaging research. The team is excited to be involved in this research effort, and appreciates BrightFocus donors’ continued support.

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