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Greater Milwaukee Foundation Funds Research of Vision Problems in Premature Babies

July 11, 2013

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a four year, $300,000 grant from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Russel J. and Betty Jane Shaw Fund to study retinopathy in premature infants.

Deborah Costakos, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of ophthalmology; and Joseph Carroll, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology, biophysics, and cell biology, neurobiology & anatomy, are the investigators in the study. Dr. Costakos also sees patients at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a disease of the eye that affects prematurely-born babies and can cause blindness. It is one of the most common causes of vision loss in childhood, affecting between 14,000 and 16,000 babies every year. ROP occurs when blood vessels grow abnormally while the retina is developing. These abnormal blood vessels can cause the retina to detach from the inside of the eye and scar making surgical repair difficult and sometimes impossible.

In previous work in this field, Dr. Costakos has used an imaging tool called spectral-domain optical coherence tomography to evaluate the eyes of premature infants at risk for ROP. Those studies have identified other eye abnormalities in those babies and they have given insight into how the eye develops. In this study, Drs. Costakos and Carroll seek to correlate the findings with those infants who are at high risk of blindness so earlier treatment may be given and vision can be saved. They also seek to expand the imaging program to other neonatal intensive care units in the city so that all premature infants in Milwaukee can have access to this type of imaging.

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