News from OHSU Casey Eye Institute

Read more about the latest in patient care, education and research from OHSU Casey Eye Institute.

Bringing eye care closer to home: OHSU trains community health workers for statewide network

Man with machine close to his eye for vision screening.
Gerry Vasquez, a community health worker from Hood River's One Community Health, gets his eye pressure tested during a basic eye health training session in Hood River on Fri., Nov. 12, 2021. (OHSU/Christine Torres Hicks)

Nine community health workers from Hood River’s One Community Health were the first to receive training on the basics of eye health on Nov. 12, 2021, as part of a statewide effort to improve eye care access for the state’s underserved and underinsured residents.

Called the Oregon Vision Health Network, the effort involves OHSU’s Casey Community Outreach Program growing partnerships with community clinics across the state to train local community health workers and clinical staff as vision health navigators who will help local residents determine if they need glasses or if they might have common sight-threatening diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Read the OHSU News story.

Study to investigate stem cell therapy as potential glaucoma treatment

Benjamin Sivyer, Ph.D.

"Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU)​ is part of a national research project investigating stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for glaucoma, the world’s second leading cause of blindness.

As part of the study, Casey Eye Institute researcher Benjamin Sivyer, Ph.D., will evaluate whether lab-transplanted cells respond to light, are successfully transplanted and form the eye-retina connections needed for vision." Read OHSU News article.

Seeing Clearer: The Latest From The OHSU Casey Eye Institute

We’re using screens more than ever before. But what’s that mean for our eyes? OHSU Casey Eye Institute providers share how to keep your eyes healthy in this ever-changing world. Also, learn what Casey is doing to improve eye care for communities throughout Oregon.

FY Eye Newsletter: Summer 2021

Cover image of the FYE Newsletter

Gene editing clinical trial participant dreams of a future with sight

A patient volunteers for clinical trial to improve vision for future generations.

Although it’s too soon to know if the experimental treatment will impact her own vision, Knight volunteered for the trial to help children enhance their own lives with the increased opportunities that sight can bring.

Casey is part of a landmark study designed to restore vision for people with a rare inherited retinal disease. Dr. Mark Pennesi leads OHSU’s involvement in the clinical trial, which is the first time scientists are using the gene-editing technique CRISPR inside the human body. Read the story.

Oregon donors help OHSU expand access to eye exams, treatment and education statewide

The mobile clinic van travels around Oregon providing free vision screenings to adults

We are excited to announce two new philanthropic gifts totaling $3.25 million to the Casey Community Outreach Program. These generous donations from the Roundhouse Foundation and Oregon philanthropist Heather Killough are making it possible to dramatically expand the free mobile clinic services we provide and save more Oregonians from preventable blindness. Read the OHSU News story.

We are extremely grateful to our donors for this funding, and feel fortunate to have such wonderful friends, volunteers and community partners who share our commitment to reaching more individuals in need of vision health services. Read the ONWARD blog post.

Innovations: Using data analytics to solve real-world workflow challenges

An infographic representing reduced wait times due to informatics research.

Using data analytics to solve real-world workflow challenges, clinical informaticist Michelle Hribar, Ph.D., created scheduling templates based on novel computer models that reduced patient wait times by 15% while increasing clinic volumes by 15%.

“If you can schedule patients whose exams are going to take a short time and have less variability at the beginning of clinic, you can avoid the snowball effect of delays that lead to long wait times,” Hribar found.

Learn more about these novel models and how Casey is using computers to support patient care.

Innovations: Investigating spectroscopic OCT to measure capillary oximetry

New eye imaging technology captures blood oxygen saturation in retinal capillaries.

Vision researchers at Casey Eye Institute use new visible-light OCT technology and novel algorithm to detect blood oxygen saturation in retinal capillaries. Yali Jia, Ph.D., and her lab are the first to bring this technology to the capillary level. This could lead to earlier detection of many blinding eye diseases and could have a major impact on doctors’ ability to save sight.

"This technology has applications for retinal diseases and glaucoma but could also impact imaging for all vascular diseases, including stroke," says Dr. Jia. Learn more.

Innovations: Pioneering the first-ever CRISPR gene editing in vivo

Operating room team and surgeon perform first ever gene therapy procuedure using CRISPR technology

After the first gene editing procedure in a living person in all of medicine was performed at Casey, Dr. Mark Pennesi and Dr. Andy Lauer share about their experience with gene editing procedures and the implications of CRISPR beyond ophthalmology.

As part of the BRILLIANCE clinical trial, the first-ever CRISPR gene editing in vivo was performed in early 2020 to repair genes causing Leber congenital amaurosis type 10. Learn more.

OHSU Casey Eye Institute grows gene and cell therapy research by performing its first stem cell therapy in the retina

Photo of the procedure using gene editing CRISPR tool in the human body.
OHSU Casey Eye Institute performed the first-ever CRISPR gene editing within the human body in early 2020 for the BRILLIANCE clinical trial. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

The OHSU Casey Eye Institute has used a stem cell therapy in the retina for the first time as part of a Phase 2a clinical trial evaluating the safety and efficacy of an experimental treatment for an inherited blindness-causing disorder.

The study is exploring the use of human retinal progenitor cells, which are early descendants of stem cells that can differentiate into retinal cells, but can’t divide or reproduce indefinitely. The study sponsor, ReNeuron, is exploring these cells as a potential way to treat retinitis pigmentosa, or RP. Read the full story on OHSU Research News.

2020 Annual Report: A Decade of Ending Preventable Blindness in Oregon

The Casey Community Outreach Program celebrated 10 years in 2020 and has served over 10,000 people.

The 2020 Impact Report for the Casey Community Outreach Program is now available. Entirely donor funded and volunteer driven, the Casey Community Outreach Program has traveled over 35,000 miles to bring much needed vision services to our most vulnerable communities. We were grateful to get back on the road for the second half of 2020 to continue our mission to end preventable blindness in Oregon. View program highlights and celebrate the impact of the Casey Community Outreach Program in 2020 and over the last decade in this Annual Impact Report.

A site for sight: Oregon Elks Children’s Eye Clinic opens its doors

Front view of the Elks Children's Eye Clinic building and colorful skybridge.

We are proud to announce that the Elks Children’s Eye Clinic building opens it's doors Dec. 8, 2020. The 60,000 square-foot facility sits adjacent to the current Casey Eye Institute, and provides space to advance work in macular degeneration research and patient care, gene therapy, children’s eye care, community outreach and more. It is the first free-standing eye institute for pediatric patients in the nation.

Learn more about this "site for sight."

OHSU physician honored for co-invention of eye-imaging technology

David Huang, M.D., Ph.D.

Casey faculty member David Huang, M.D., Ph.D., receives Visionary Award from The Sanford and Susan Greenberg Prize to End Blindness.

Dr. Huang is being recognized for co-inventing optical coherence tomography (OCT), an eye imaging technology now widely used to diagnose and guide treatments for many eye diseases. Dr. Huang, who is Casey Eye Institute’s Associate Director and Director of Research, is one of only 13 scientists chosen for this prize based on his scientific and medical contributions to ending blindness. Read the OHSU News story.

10,000+ free eye exams to prevent blindness in Oregon

Celebration with mobile clinic volunteers of te 10,000th participant screened by the mobile clinic.

Maria Leonar Garcia Pio, 55, had learned to live with blurred vision because she couldn’t afford to see an eye doctor. She became the 10,000th participant screened by the program and was referred to an eye doctor to address her cataracts, a condition that can lead to blindness if left untreated. Read more about her story.

More than 10,000 people like Garcia Pio have received a free eye exam from an ophthalmologist through the OHSU Casey Community Outreach Program, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

OHSU ophthalmologist to lead National Eye Institute

Michael Chiang, M.D., pediatric ophthalmologist

We are thrilled to share that Casey’s Dr. Michael Chiang has been named the new director of the National Eye Institute (NEI), which is part of the National Institutes of Health. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and is a strong attestation of Mike's superb qualities and skill as a physician, ophthalmologist, researcher, educator and leader. The timing is also an immense opportunity for Mike to apply his expertise in informatics and big data to the benefit of vision science and patient care nationwide. 

Although we are saddened by his departure, we wish him the best in his new role! Read the full article.

OHSU performs first-ever CRISPR gene editing within human body

Photo of the procedure using gene editing CRISPR tool in the human body.

Physicians at OHSU Casey Eye Institute performed the first ever gene editing procedure inside the human body on a patient with a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa. Read the article.

This marks a major advance for all of medicine as we enter an era of repairing inherited genetic diseases. The research is being led by Mark Pennesi, M.D., Ph.D., who leads the Paul H. Casey Genetics Division, and the surgery was performed by Andreas Lauer, M.D., chair of the Casey Eye Institute.

Caption: Mark Pennesi, M.D., Ph.D., who leads OHSU's involvement in the trial, center right, looks on as staff at Oregon Health & Science University's Casey Eye Institute perform the first-ever in vivo CRISPR gene edit procedure for the BRILLIANCE clinical trial. The study uses the gene-editing technology CRISPR to repair mutations in the CEP290 gene that cause a rare form of inherited blindness called Leber congenital amaurosis type 10. The trial is sponsored by Allergan plc. and Editas Medicine. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Celebrate sight with interactive storytelling project

Participant goes into the booth to record a person story about what vision means to them.
An interactive multimedia art installation called The Eye Love Project, from OHSU Casey Eye Institute, is making a debut at the Portland Winter Light Festival. The project celebrates the power of vision and visitors can record their own thoughts about what vision adds to their lives. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

Vision frames our experiences with the world, but we don’t always take a moment to appreciate everything our eyes do for us. This is that moment.

Powered by Casey, The Eye Love Project is a giant, eye shaped exhibit where people can take a moment to appreciate their vision and share personal stories about how we see the world, together.

Read the full article.

Tech that detects cause of preemie blindness gets federal nod

A father kisses his infant's little fingers as the baby is seed by doctors to treat Retinopathy of Prematurity

Can artificial intelligence detect eye disease? An artificial intelligence algorithm developed by Casey researchers received breakthrough device status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This technology can detect a potentially blinding eye disease in preemie babies better than most experts. Read the full article. 

FDA recommends approval of eye drug tested in Portland

Thyroid eye disease is a rare but serious condition that can cause blindness and bulging eyes.
Judy Bachman of Portland participated in a clinical trial that treated symptoms of thyroid eye disease, a condition that can cause eyes to bulge outward, double vision, and eyelids to retract and not fully close. Bachman testified before the FDA about her experience with the drug teprotumumab and how it allowed her to get her life back. (OHSU/Kristyna Wentz-Graff)

The FDA recommended approval of a new thyroid eye disease drug tested at Casey after Dr. Roger Dailey and his patient, Judy Bachman, went to D.C. to testify in support of the drug.

Thyroid eye disease can lead to blindness if untreated. Also known as Graves’ eye disease, the autoimmune condition is often associated with thyroid disorders and is believed to affect up to 75,000 Americans. Until now, there’s been no cure for this disease.

“I stopped reading because I couldn’t track the words. Sewing was torture, and I couldn’t go bicycling. But I don’t have those troubles now,” said Bachman, who testified before the FDA committee about her experience with the drug through the trial. Read the article.

Wonder girl

Aliyah was able to remove her eye patch and wore a Wonder Woman costume to celebrate.

“If Dr. Wilson and the Casey Eye Institute were to completely up and move across the country, I would still fly Aliyah to see them. There is absolutely no one else I would entrust completely to handle her care.”

3 year-old Aliyah was at home when she sustained an eye injury, and when her parents rushed her to their optometrist they were sent immediately to OHSU - three and a half hours away. After two years and over 2,000 hours of using an eye patch, Aliyah wanted to commemorate her last day using the patch by wearing a Wonder Woman costume. Read the full story.

Donor spotlight: Paul Casey

Paul Casey 2019

Paul Casey cares deeply about the OHSU Casey Eye Institute. Not a surprise: His family name is on the building. But you can’t fully understand the “why” of Paul’s generosity toward the institute without learning where he comes from. It’s a story of loss and luck. Inventiveness and determination. Grit and gratitude. Read the full article.

Note: The profile above appeared in the November 2019 issue of Onward Magazine, just prior to Mr. Casey's passing. We are grateful for his generous and steadfast support of the Casey Eye Institute. 

Discovery in monkeys could lead to treatment for blindness causing syndrome

A rhesus macaque monkey has a rare genetic disease that could help researchers develop new treatments for Bardet-Biedel syndrome..

A genetic mutation that leads to a rare, but devastating blindness-causing syndrome has been discovered in monkeys for the first time. The finding offers a promising way to develop gene and cell therapies that could treat the condition in people...Read the full article.

Lewis & Clark student helps advance with Usher’s syndrome research at OHSU

Brendan Cramer interned at OHSU to help scientists learn more about stem cells as a possible treatment for Usher Syndrome, which Creemer has.

“You have that choice to either give up and assume everything is hopeless or choose to take action and not only help yourself but others around you as well.”

Brendan Creemer, a student from Lewis & Clark College, spent much of the summer in the laboratory of Oregon Health and Science University in the lab of neuroscientists Martha Neuringer, Ph.D., and Trevor McGill, Ph.D., working on a method to improve the ability to use stem cells as a possible treatment for Usher syndrome. Creemer has Usher syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes progressive vision loss and deafness.

Read the full article to find out more about Creemer's story and what the personal connection means to OHSU scientists.

Occupational therapist with low vision helps her peers find independence

Kathryn Marxen-Simonson helps a patient learn to navigate with visual aids.
Kathryn Marxen-Simonson is an occupational therapy at Casey Eye Institute's Vision Rehabilitation Center.

Kathryn Marxen-Simonson, 30, of Portland, Oregon, has had limited vision since she was 3 ½ months old, when she developed retinopathy of prematurity as a baby born prematurely at 25 weeks gestation...Read the article.

Local TV station KATU News aired a story featuring the Low Vision Rehabilitation Center's occupational therapist, Kathryn Marxen-Simonson, and one of her cliets, View the video.

Donor spotlight: Glenn and Marilyn Hart

The Harts are valued OHSU donors and great supporters of Casey Eye Institute.

Marilyn Hart likes to joke that her longtime doctor, Casey Eye Institute Director David Wilson, MD, the Paul H. Casey chair in ocular oncology, once told her she could be a “poster child” for successful eye surgeries. Read the full article.

Dr. David Wilson is inaugural recipient of the Paul H. Casey Chair in Ocular Oncology

Dr. David Wilson with donor Paul H. Casey and leaders from OHSU and Casey Eye Institute
Left to right: Michael F. Chiang, M.D. Paul H. Casey, David J. Wilson, M.D., Andreas K. Lauer, M.D., Danny Jacobs, M.D.

David Wilson, M.D., professor of ophthalmology, OHSU School of Medicine, and director, Casey Eye Institute, was appointed the inaugural recipient of the Paul H. Casey Chair in Ocular Oncology....Read more.

A Living Legend

Dr. Robert Watzke reflects on his career as an ophthalmologist at OHSU Casey Eye Institute

Dr. Robert Watzke was a retina specialist at OHSU Casey Eye Institute
Casey's beloved Dr. Robert Watzke reflects on his remarkable career as a "living legend" in ophthalmology in this podcast produced by OHSU News.

Doing work you love is a key ingredient in a long, satisfying career. No one knows this better than Robert Watzke, a professor in the OHSU Casey Eye Institute. Dr. Watzke joined OHSU as a full professor in 1984 after a 30-year career in Iowa. He recently retired but is still involved in teaching residents. Listen to the OHSU Now interview. 

New eye clinic building meets construction milestone

At the beam topping-off ceremony in May 2019, all were welcome to sign the  building's highest beam.

A crowd cheered as it watched the final beam being hoisted onto the highest level of the five-story, 60,000-square-foot building, which will be completed in 2020. Before the beam was erected, they had lined up to make their mark on the new project by signing the 1,437-pound piece...Read the full article.

High hopes for 4-year-old’s vision after gene therapy

A young boy with inherited retinal disease walks with his dad. He was treated with the first FDA approved gene therapy Luxturna.

Throughout his first four years, young Caspian Soto has navigated life differently than most.

He wears a headlamp to brighten the world before him and uses a cane to feel the ground’s surface – and sometimes, for fun, also rides it like a witch on a broom. Without these items, he used to become frustrated as he routinely bumped into objects that were in clear view for others, but hidden to him...Read the full article.

Elks association essential to OHSU’s fight against childhood blindness

The Elks Children's Eye Clinic new building attached to the current Casey Eye Institute

Thanks to a $20 million pledge from the Elks, OHSU is able to break ground June 2 on a $50 million, 60,000 square-foot building that will be named the Oregon Elks Children’s Eye Clinic...Read the full article.

Telemedicine provides accurate diagnosis of rare cause of blindness in preemies

Babies born with retinopathy of prematurity may benefit from telemedicine.

Accurately detecting a rare but devastating cause of blindness in premature babies can be done as effectively with telemedicine as with traditional, in-person eye exams, a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology suggests. This is believed to be the first study to directly compare the two approaches.

The finding could enable more blindness-preventing treatment for infants born in rural and other areas where there are few ophthalmologists trained to detect the condition, called retinopathy of prematurity, or ROP. Musician Stevie Wonder went blind due to this condition...Read the full article.