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Fort Myers doctor involved in groundbreaking research?

June 26, 2011
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Retina Health Center Director Dr. Alexander Eaton has presented new research on the identification of genetic markers that may predict a patient’s predisposition to steroid-induced glaucoma. Used to control inflammation following eye surgery and for a number of ocular conditions, steroid medications are one of the most commonly used eye medications. Development of glaucoma is one of the complications from the use of all types of steroids including those used as drops or inserted in and around the eye, taken orally or intravenously for any of a number of medical conditions.

Eaton first shared his work on the pharmacogenomics of steroid-induced glaucoma to a packed auditorium of more than 3,000 attendees at the largest EURETINA conference on record, held at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Center in London on May 27. Eaton was personally thanked for his presentation by the board of EURETINA, and recognized for his contribution by EURETINA President Bill Aylward. The work was done in collaboration with Dr. Hussein Wafapoor of the Retina Health Center and researchers from Bascom Palmer and the University of Southern California.

Pharmacogenomics is the study of how an individual's genetic code (their DNA)affects their response to specific drugs. Just as some people have different colored irises, some may have differences in the way their bodies and cells respond to medications. The ability to sample a patient’s DNA to determine their risk of developing a side effect prior to treatment with an ophthalmic medication is a first in ophthalmology.

“Currently, patients on ocular steroid treatment or high-dose oral therapy must be closely monitored for the development of steroid-induced glaucoma,” said Eaton. “However, by taking a painless swab of cheek cells from inside the patient’s mouth, we can test their DNA to determine the patient’s risk of developing steroid-induced glaucoma before or at the beginning of their treatment. Armed with this information, we can tailor the patient’s treatment accordingly.”

Eaton continues to refine the parameters of the test for clinical use and hopes that the test can be made available to all physicians in the United States by the end of the year.

“Better understanding an individual’s genetics is behind the concept of personalized medicine, a new trend in customizing care and adapting treatment and medicine to match each person’s unique makeup,” says Eaton. “We at Retina Health Center are very excited to be at the forefront of personalized medicine. Because steroids are one of the most common medications used ophthalmology, the implications of this work are tremendous. Not only can we help patients in our Fort Myers and Naples practices, but our research has a global impact with the potential to help patients across the world.”



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