Medical College to join gene-sequencing partnership
Red blood cells converted into chemical sensors

Eye research could preserve patients' vision

By Amanda Alvarez of the Journal Sentinel

In a dark room, ocular biologist Joseph Carroll stares at a pulsing, speckled, black-and-white image on a computer screen. It's the back of Keri Gerlach's right eye - the retina, to be specific. A high-tech, expensive camera is taking pictures of her eye to follow the progression of a blinding disease called retinitis pigmentosa.

Outside it is sweltering, but inside the imaging room it is quiet and cold; machinery hums, dials are slowly turned to reach optimal focus, and the only words spoken are requests to "blink blink!" Carroll and the team at the Medical College of Wisconsin have been tracking Gerlach's eyes for 18 months, in anticipation of upcoming gene therapy trials that could restore vision to patients.

Taking extremely detailed pictures of the retina is a crucial first step in determining if a patient could benefit from treatment. With eye diseases on the increase, and therapeutic opportunities opening up through advances in genetics, seeing inside the eye is vital, and the pioneering work in this field is being done in Milwaukee.

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