The eye is a part of the nervous system so it is logical that a few eye doctors are specialists in both neuroscience and ophthalmology. At Doheny Eye Institute, research interests in this highly specialized field, called neuro-ophthalmology, are concerned with the structure and function of the optic nerve in health and disease and about new treatments. The optic nerve is a conduit between the eye and brain. It conveys visual information to the brain. The optic nerve contains microscopic fibers (axons) that originate from ganglion cells in the eye’s retina.

Optic neuropathies are a class of vision disorders that severely damage the ganglion cells and optic nerve. Among the optic neuropathies being studied by Doheny scientists are Leber’s hereditary optic neuropathy (LHON), dominant optic atrophy, and toxic mitochondrial neuropathy.

The Doheny physician scientists conduct studies to identify clinical signs and symptoms of optic neuropathies to educate ophthalmologists everywhere about medical management; they conduct studies to understand the causes of the disorders to develop treatments and cures; they identify drug-, nutritional-, and environment-related causes of optic neuropathies to develop preventive strategies; and they are testing an experimental compound called EPI-743 as a possible means of preventing vision loss in patients with LHON.

Research by Doheny neuro-ophthalmologists is revealing minute details about genetic causes of optic neuropathies and the role of mitochondrial malfunctions in optic neuropathies. (Mitochondria are tiny energy-producing parts of cells that help maintain normal functioning).

The researchers also study the effects on the visual system of multiple sclerosis, AIDS, thyroid disorders, stroke, and several other conditions. Further, they are investigating the optic nerve in the aging eye and the importance of visual rehabilitation after a stroke.

Doheny neuro-ophthalmologist Alfredo A. Sadun, MD, PhD, was the first to identify several optic nerve conditions related to AIDS and Alzheimer’s disease and is an award-winning physician and researcher.


Alfredo Sadun, MD, PhD

Alfredo Sadun, MD, PhD


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