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2003 Press Releases 

 

Scientists shed light on genetic eye abnormality that makes eyes slow to adjust to brightness

Study described in the Jan. 1 issue of "Nature"

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Boston, Mass.(Dec. 31, 2003) - While many individuals complain of difficulty adjusting to bright light, scientists have had little success in identifying an abnormality in the retina that causes this symptom. A research team led by scientists at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has identified genetic defects in five unrelated individuals that interfere with the ability of cells in the eye to quickly adjust to changes in light intensity. Their work is described in the Jan. 1 issue of Nature.

Researchers from the three laboratories located at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Ocular Molecular Genetics Institute (Thaddeus Dryja, Koji Nishiguchi and Stephanie Hagstrom), the Berman-Gund Laboratory for the Study of Retinal Degenerations (Eliot Berson and Michael Sandberg), and the Howe Laboratory (Vadim Arshavsky and Kirill Martemyanov), and from the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands (Aart Kooijman and Jan Willem Pott), recently discovered a biologic basis for slow adaptation to light in some individuals. The photoreceptor cells in the eyes of normal individuals quickly respond to light and also quickly recover after exposure to light. Theoretically, it is possible to have defect in either the activation or the deactivation of the photoreceptor's light response. In the past, many defects in the activation phase have been found, and these typically lead to marked abnormalities in vision. This is the first report of patients with a problem with the deactivation of photoreceptors.
"In 1991 in the Netherlands, some patients were identified with abnormal recovery from the influence of strong light flashes. For example, they reported difficulty in playing ball games because they could not see a moving ball. With sudden changes in luminance, like that caused by going from inside to outside on a sunny day, these patients are essentially blind for five to 10 seconds," said Dr. Kooijman from the University of Groningen. While some patients with cataracts can have related symptoms, these individuals had no cataracts.
"We found that their symptoms are due to defects in proteins that normally function to deactivate photoreceptors after exposure to light. These defects were due to defects in proteins that normally function to deactivate photoreceptors after exposure to light. The disease was due to mutations in the gene encoding these proteins," said Dr. Dryja from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School.
There is no cure for this condition; however, dark glasses to reduce exposure to bright light appear to be helpful. Those who experience extreme difficulty in adjusting to changes in light should consult with their physician. While the authors believe that these gene defects are uncommon, their discovery may provide clues to the basis for the milder difficulties that many individual experience when trying to adapt to changes in light intensity.
This study was supported by the National Institutes of Health (National Eye Institute), the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Owings Mills, Maryland, and the American Heart Association. The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is an international center for treatment and research and a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. For more information, call (617) 523-7900 or TDD (617) 523-5498 or visit www.meei.harvard.edu.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physicians Elect New President

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BOSTON (Dec. 15, 2003) - Michael J. McKenna, M.D., associate professor of otology and laryngology at the Harvard Medical School and a resident of Southborough, Mass., was recently named president of the medical staff at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Dr. McKenna first came to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in 1989 as full-time staff member after receiving an academic appointment in the department of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School. In the last 15 years, he has practiced strictly in otology, neurotology and skull base surgery.
"Throughout his career, he has played a critical role in the education and training of Harvard Medical students, residents in otolaryngology, and both clinical and research fellows," says Infirmary Chief of Otolaryngology Joseph B. Nadol Jr., M.D.
Dr. McKenna is a member of several professional societies including the New England Otolaryngological Society, American Otological Society, American Neurotology Society and most recently, the Collegium Oto-Rhino-Laryngologicum.
 

Matthew Lorber Elected Trustee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

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BOSTON (Dec. 10, 2003) - Matthew Lorber, a resident of Westwood, Mass., has been elected to a five- year term as a trustee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Inc.
Mr. Lorber is the co-founder, president and CEO of Copley Controls, a worldwide leader in MRI Gradient Systems and high performance motion controls. He also co-founded Analog Devices, a Fortune 500 electronics manufacturer.
Mr. Lorber is married to Susan Lorber and they have a daughter, Janie. An avid skier, Mr. Lorber enjoys going to Red Sox games and playing golf.


Robert P. Fitzgerald Elected Trustee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

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BOSTON (Dec. 10, 2003) - Robert P. Fitzgerald, a resident of Boston, Mass., has been elected to a five-year term as trustee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Inc.
Mr. Fitzgerald is senior vice-president at Acordia, Inc., a Chicago-based insurance firm. Prior to that, Mr. Fitzgerald was an executive at Coroon and Black Insurance Inc., and CEO of Harbor National Bank.
Mr. Fitzgerald has been highly active in the community, supporting and serving such organizations as the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center, the American Cancer Society and as a trustee of Boston Latin School. Mr. Fitzgerald has also been involved as a fundraising coordinator with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's campaigns since 1962.


Terence Wong Elected Trustee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

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BOSTON (Dec. 10, 2003) - Terence Wong, a resident of Cambridge, Mass., has been elected to a five-year term as a trustee of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Inc.
Mr. Wong, a graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Sloan School of Management, has been an executive at Supercon, Inc., a specialty wire manufacturer, since 1993. In addition to serving as vice-president, Mr. Wong is a co-inventor on three patents, has served as principle investigator on multiple grants from the DOE and NSF, and has published 18 technical papers.
In his spare time, Mr. Wong enjoys ultimate frisbee, skiing, cooking, and spending time with his family.
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Good and Bad Fats Linked to Progression of Age-related Macular Degeneration

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Boston (Dec. 8, 2003) - Higher levels of good dietary fat, including fish and nuts, have been found to diminish the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), and bad fat, such as processed baked goods, increase the progression to the advanced stages of the disease that is associated with vision loss. AMD is the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment in the United States. The findings are published in a paper in the December issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

In the first study designed to evaluate dietary fat intake and the progression of AMD, Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., ScM, lead author and director of the Epidemiology Unit at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, along with her co-authors, found that people with the early or intermediate stage of AMD, who consumed higher levels of vegetable fat and animal fat, increased their rates of progression to advanced AMD.

Food groups with higher levels of saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and transunsaturated fats, particularly processed baked goods, were associated with a higher rate of progression of AMD. On the other hand, nuts and fish tended to reduce the risk of progression. These foods contain fats that have been found to be associated with reduction in risk of cardiovascular diseases, in particular omega-3 fatty acids as found in fish. The prospective study consisted of 261 participants, aged 60 years and older with early or intermediate stage AMD and visual acuity of 20/200 or better in at least one eye at the onset of the study.

"Identification of modifiable risk factors for AMD may improve our ability to identify and treat the approximately 8 million people in the United States with signs of AMD who are at risk of progressing to more severe forms of the disease," Seddon said. "More than 200,000 people develop advanced AMD with visual loss every year, and these numbers are growing as the percentage of elderly people continues to grow."

Results of the study were derived from the Progression Study of Macular Degeneration, is a longitudinal study designed by Seddon to determine multiple risk and protective factors for the onset and progression of AMD. The 102 males and 159 females, mean age 72.8, were followed for an average of 4.6 years. All had some form of AMD and were examined annually by Seddon to determine if their disease worsened.

Seddon is a world renowned macular degeneration clinician and researcher, and a national leader of a landmark study of nutritional supplements and age-related macular degeneration.
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Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician Becomes Fellow of American College of Surgeons

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BOSTON (Nov. 24, 2003) -- Sandra Lora Cremers, M.D., a resident of Somerville, Mass., recently was among 1,442 initiates from around the world who became Fellows of the American College of Surgeons on October 19, at the College's 89th annual Clinical Congress in Chicago, Ill.
Dr. Cremers has been practicing at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary since 2000. She attained board certification from the American Board of Ophthalmology in 2001. Dr. Cremers has a strong interest in cataract and refractive surgery and holds membership in other professional societies including the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the Association of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons.
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First drug/treatment targets source of wet AMD vision loss; study results discussed at the AAO annual meeting

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Boston (Nov. 17, 2003) - New hope may be on the horizon for some people with the wet form of macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease in which abnormal blood vessel growth causes loss of vision. Results of two large international clinical trials have shown positive results using Macugen, an experimental treatment that targets these abnormal blood vessels. The results, described last weekend at the American Academy of Ophthalmology's annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., demonstrated the drug's ability to decrease vision loss in this form of AMD.
The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) in Boston participated in the clinical trials. In addition, researchers and physicians at MEEI -- Drs. Tony Adamis (formerly of MEEI), Evangelos Gragoudas (MEEI) and Joan Miller (MEEI) -- were among the first to study the role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which causes abnormal blood vessel growth in eye disease. Their experimental studies showed that levels of VEGF protein were increased in eyes that developed abnormal new blood vessels, and that VEGF-blocking drugs were able to prevent the growth of these abnormal blood vessels. Others, including Harvard's Dr. Lloyd Paul Aiello of the Joslin Diabetes Center and Dr. Lois Smith of Children's Hospital, corroborated the importance of VEGF in neovascular eye disease. These studies formed the basis for the drug development and clinical trials of anti-VEGF therapies, including Macugen, and demonstrate the importance of translational research, in order to transform scientific discoveries into new therapies for patients.
Age-related macular degeneration is the most common cause of severe vision loss in people over 50 and affects approximately 200,000 yearly in the United States alone. In wet AMD, abnormal blood vessels grow under the central retina and cause a progressive loss of central vision, interfering with driving, reading and other everyday tasks.
Macugen differs from current treatments, which are directed at the results of the disease. Current treatments, which employ a drug and laser, are able to slow vision loss, but have not been widely applicable to all patients. Macugen is the first treatment designed to target the source of the disease. Macugen blocks the pathological form of a chemical called VEGF, which is produced in the eye of patients with wet AMD.
The Macugen study, reported involved 1,186 patients with wet AMD enrolled into one of four treatment arms: three drug doses and placebo. One-year follow up demonstrated a benefit to the treatment, with preserved vision (patients lost less than three lines on the eye chart) in 70% of eyes receiving Macugen compared to 55% in the placebo group, a result that was statistically significant. Macugen was effective at all of the doses tested and in all of the forms of wet AMD enrolled, regardless of the angiographic composition. A gain of two or more lines of vision was observed in 11% of patients receiving Macugen compared to 6% receiving placebo. The drug appeared to be safe, with no increased risk of cardiovascular or other systemic effects. Some patients received combination Macugen and photodynamic therapy, but those results were not presented at the meeting. Macugen is administered by an injection into the eye, given every six weeks in an ophthalmologist's office. Macugen may be available by late 2004 or early 2005, pending review by the FDA. Macugen is produced by Eyetech Pharmaceuticals, a New York-based biotech.
"Although the treatment effect was modest, it was demonstrated to benefit people with three types of wet AMD. For two of these types, we currently do not have an FDA approved treatment," said Dr. John Loewenstein, a retinal specialist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and investigator for some of the Macugen trials. "The drug will allow us to treat more patients who have this devastating eye disease. There is a small risk of significant complications from the injections that must be weighed against the treatment benefit. Overall, I think this is a significant addition to our treatment for macular degeneration."

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Chief of Anesthesiology

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Boston (Oct. 31, 2003) - Salvatore Basta, M.D., was recently named Chief of Anesthesiology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI).
A graduate of Williams College and the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Dr. Basta interned at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, completed his anesthesia residency at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), and was a clinical research fellow in Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School.
"We are especially pleased to have Dr. Basta join our team," said Joseph B. Nadol, Jr., M.D., Chief of Otolaryngology at MEEI. "His clinical and scientific contributions to the field of anesthesiology will further enhance the services offered to Infirmary patients."
Dr. Basta's research interests have been focused on developing new neuromuscular blocking agents for use during anesthesia and understanding the pharmacology of histamine release. Prior to joining MEEI, Dr. Basta was the Director of Anesthesia Services for the Same Day Surgical Unit and Director of the Clinical Anesthesia Division at MGH, where he provided anesthesia services for more than 20 years.

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary's Anesthesia Department Continues To Expand

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Boston (Oct. 31, 2003) - Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) recently appointed Joseph Bayes, M.D., as Clinical Director and Shannon Zhang, M.D., as Acting Pediatric Director of the Anesthesia Department. Both physicians joined the department in 1999 and have held other administrative and committee positions in the department prior to their recent appointments.
Dr. Zhang, a resident of Acton, Mass., completed her residency at Yale University, and most recently was the Acting Clinical Director at the Infirmary. Dr. Zhang is also a member of the Pediatric Advisory Board at the Infirmary.
Dr. Bayes, a resident of Newton, Mass., most recently was the Acting Chief of the Anesthesia Department and the Director of Anesthesia Services in the Infirmary's Surgicenter. Dr. Bayes also serves on the board of the Infirmary's Surgical Case Review Committee.

Generation of inner ear cells from stem cells may lead to new approaches to hearing loss and deafness

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Study described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
(Boston, Mass.) - Slowing or reversing hearing loss is a major challenge for modern medicine. Mechanical wear and tear, pharmaceutical assaults, and age-related hair cell loss cause a progressive diminishment of our hearing throughout life. Underlying the irreversibility of hearing loss in people is the incapacity of the inner ear's sensory receptor cells or "hair cells" to regenerate.
A research team led by Stefan Heller, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary's Eaton-Peabody Laboratory and assistant professor, Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, recently discovered a new population of stem cells that reside in the inner ear of adult mice. Heller's lab has taken this work one step further in a study outlined in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition that will publish online the week of Oct. 27-Oct. 31.
Heller's laboratory has found a way to coax mouse embryonic stem cells to develop into inner ear precursor cells that ultimately have the ability to differentiate into the inner ear's sensory cells, hair cells.
"Pilot cell transplantation experiments revealed that these embryonic stem cell-derived progenitors can integrate into developing vestibular and cochlear hair cell layers and that the transplanted cells express genes specific for hair cells," Heller said. "Using embryonic stem cells as the source for inner ear cell types has the advantage that we can generate large numbers of these cells. Larger numbers of material for research will expedite the development of cell transplantation techniques."
Before this new strategy and the recent isolation of inner ear stem cells can be explored to develop therapeutic applications, scientists need to solve several technological and cell biological puzzles, Heller cautioned.
"Overall, I believe that our findings are substantial advances in basic research on inner ear neurodegeneration," he said. "I think that these findings now open the door for novel approaches in the search for methods to replace lost hair cells, which is a major cause of deafness."
With a staff of more than 50 scientists, physicians and engineers, the Eaton-Peabody Laboratory is one of the world's largest basic research facilities dedicated to the study of hearing and deafness. The laboratory is located at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, an international center for treatment and research and a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. For more information, call (617) 573-3700 or TDD (617) 523-5498 or visit www.meei.harvard.edu.

 

Mass. Eye and Ear Program Gives Low Vision Patients a Second Look

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BOSTON (Oct. 8, 2003) -The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary recently launched Second Look - Sight Enhancing Equipment Services -- for those who suffer from severe vision loss. Second Look was established to educate and train low vision patients on the latest in life enhancing technology that otherwise may not be available to them.
"With low vision devices and adaptive aids, people can master techniques to help them increase their independence," says Joel A. Kraut, M.D., Medical Director of the Infirmary's Vision Rehabilitation Center. "By offering the Second Look service, we hope to reach out to a greater number of people and provide them with the tools and training to make their lives more meaningful."
Second Look is the newest addition to the Vision Rehabilitation Center. The program introduces patients to a wide variety of technologies available today thanks to personal computers, voice synthesization and close circuit camera-based enlargement. Second Look has been made possible through the generosity of Infirmary friends.To learn more about the Vision Rehabilitation Center at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, visit http://www.meei.harvard.edu/shared/ophtho/low.html or call 617-573-4177.

Smell and Taste Expert Joins Infirmary

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BOSTON (Sept. 18, 2003) - The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is pleased to announce that Eric H. Holbrook, M.D., is the newest addition to the Department of Otolaryngology at the Infirmary.
Before joining the Infirmary Dr. Holbrook, a resident of Westwood, Mass., completed his Rhinology / Sinus / Chemosensory Fellowship at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska under Dr. Donald Leopold. Dr. Holbrook's clinical and research interests are in diseases of the sinuses and disorders of the sense of smell. He received his doctorate at the SUNY Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York.

 

Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician First Woman To be Named Chief and Chairman of Ophthalmology at the Infirmary and Harvard Medical School

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Boston (Sept. 26, 2003) - Joan W. Miller, M.D., retina specialist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) Professor of Ophthalmology, was recently named Chief of Ophthalmology at MEEI and Chairman of Ophthalmology at HMS, following a year-long, nationwide search.

A graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and HMS, Dr. Miller is the director of the Infirmary's Angiogenesis Laboratory and a full time physician in the Retina Service at the Infirmary. She has served as the first chairman of the Joint Governance Committee of the Center for Clinical Research, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, the first woman president of the medical staff of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and is the first woman to be named Chief and Chairman of Ophthalmology at MEEI and HMS.

Dr. Miller's research interests are focused on ocular neovascularization, particularly as it relates to macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, including the role of growth factors, the development of anti-angiogenic therapy, and photodynamic therapy. She, along with Evangelos Gragoudas, M.D., pioneered the development of photodynamic therapy for neovascular macular degeneration. In addition, Dr. Miller and her colleagues were among the first to demonstrate the importance of a growth factor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the development of ocular neovascularization and the potential use of drug therapies targeting VEGF.
"Dr. Miller is an extraordinary researcher, clinician and teacher, with strong plans for the future" said Infirmary President F. Curtis Smith. "She has been an incredible asset to our organization, and I look forward to working with her in her new role."

An internationally recognized expert in the field of macular degeneration, Dr. Miller has published more than 64 original peer-reviewed papers, 38 book chapters and review articles, and is a named inventor on four U.S. patents.
She has received numerous awards, including the Rosenthal Award of the Macula Society, the Retina Research Award from the Club Jules Gonin, and the Alcon Research Institute Award. Dr. Miller and her husband John live in Winchester, Mass. with their two younger children, Douglas and Mary. Their son John is an undergraduate student at MIT.


Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary Researchers Find Linkage of Age-related Macular Degeneration to Areas of Chromosomes in Scan of Genome

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Boston (Sept. 18, 2003) - Researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI)and Harvard Medical School (HMS) have found evidence in the human genome linking age-related macular degeneration (AMD) to several chromosomal regions. The results will be published in the October issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics and are currently available on-line.
In the first study of genetics and AMD at MEEI and HMS, lead author Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., ScM, director of the Epidemiology Unit at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, along with her co-lead author, Susan Santangelo, ScD, Massachusetts General Hospital, a genomewide scan was performed and significant linkage of AMD was found.
"These results provide valuable leads in the search for genes associated with AMD, the leading cause of blindness in the elderly," Seddon said.
Principal Investigator, Dr. Seddon began the national study in 1989. Funding for the study was awarded from the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute. Published results included a subset of 158 families with two or more siblings with AMD, of which 490 individuals were affected, 101 were unaffected, with a total of 511 affected sibling pairs.
Evidence of AMD was found linked to chromosomes 2, 3, 6, and 8, as well as potential regions on other chromosomes. Seddon and her colleagues continue to recruit and conduct analyses to identify genes which render an individual susceptible to this disease. In addition, the Epidemiology Unit at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has identified risk factors for AMD, including cigarette smoking, overall obesity, abdominal fat, and dietary fat. They have also shown the beneficial effect of antioxidant nutrients.

 

Discovery of Inner Ear Cells May Lead to New Therapies for Deafness and Inner Ear Disorders

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(Boston, Mass.) - Hearing loss and vestibular disorders often have debilitating effects on affected individuals, ranging in severity from modest difficulty with speech comprehension to profound deafness, tinnitus or dizziness. Hearing loss is the most prevalent chronic disease of the elderly, affecting more than one third of people over 65 years of age. In most cases, hearing loss is caused by degeneration of the inner ear's sensory receptor cells or "hair cells."
A research team led by Stefan Heller, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary's Eaton-Peabody Laboratory and assistant professor, Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, has discovered a new population of stem cells that reside in the inner ear of adult mice. Huawei Li, Ph.D., a postdoctoral associate of the laboratory, found that these cells give rise to new hair cells in the culture dish, as well as after transplantation into embryonic inner ears of laboratory animals. The combination of these two discoveries could eventually lead to new hope for some people who suffer from hearing loss.
"The generation of new hair cells from a renewable source is the first step towards the development of new treatment options for human deafness," Heller said. "Our immediate future goal is to test whether stem cell-derived hair cells can functionally restore hearing in deaf animals. Ultimately, working in conjunction with Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary clinicians, we aim to develop therapeutic applications for stem cell-based therapy for inner ear disorders."
Heller and Li's results will be published in the October issue of Nature Medicine and will be available Sept. 1, 2003 online at http://www.nature.com/nm/.

 

Researchers Discover Direct Correlation Between Gene Mutation and Abnormal Retina Function in 'Best Disease:' Even in the Face of No Symptoms

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Boston (Aug. 28, 2003) - Eye researchers have discovered a direct correlation between the presence of a mutation in the gene associated with Best disease -- a macular dystrophy -- and abnormal retina function, even if there are no symptoms of the disease present. This new finding is described in the September issue of Ophthalmology.
According to lead author, Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., ScM, director of the Epidemiology Unit at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, this paper reports the correlations between mutations in VMD2, the gene associated with Best disease, and the clinical appearance of the macula, in two families with Best disease. Best disease, also known as Vitelliform Macular Dystrophy type 2 (VMD2) is an inherited form of macular degeneration that is characterized by a loss of central vision caused by vitelliform macular lesions. Some patients may be asymptomatic, while others may have vision loss at the time the disease is diagnosed.
"The important finding is that the presence of a mutation in this gene signifies an abnormal functioning of the retina, even if the family member has no clinical sign of maculopathy on examination," Seddon said. "Genetic testing is now an additional tool to evaluate normal appearing members of a family that have a history of Best disease."
In the study, researchers evaluated two families with Best disease to determine if affected family members had mutations in the VMD2 gene, compared with unaffected family members, and to evaluate whether phenotypically normal individuals with abnormal retinal function had a VMD2 gene mutation.


Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Renames General Eye Service

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Boston (July 22, 2003) - The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is pleased to announce a change in the name of the General Eye Service. Effective immediately, the department will be known as Comprehensive Ophthalmology.
"This change better reflects the broad range of services the Infirmary provides and has become the standard nationwide for primary eye care services," said Bonnie An Henderson, M.D., Director of Comprehensive Ophthalmology.


Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician Receives 50th Anniversary Scholars in Medicine Fellowship Award

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Boston (July 22, 2003) - Theresa A. Hadlock M.D., has been awarded the 2003 Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Fellowship, one of fifty 50th Anniversary Scholars in Medicine Fellowships.
Dr. Hadlock, a resident of Concord, Ma., and a physician scientist, was chosen out of 107 applicants for the seventeen fellowships selected by the Harvard Medical School process. Dean Joseph Martin will be hosting a reception to honor the 50th Anniversary Fellowship recipients on Thursday, November 20, 2003.

 

Mass. Eye and Ear Ranked a Top Hospital for Otolaryngology, Ophthalmology, in U.S. News' "America's Best Hospitals"

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Boston (July 17, 2003) - The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary ranked second in the nation for otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) and fourth in the nation for ophthalmology (eyes), according to U.S. News and World Report's "America's Best Hospitals" survey.
The Infirmary's ranking in otolaryngology improved this year (up from #3 to #2) and its ranking in ophthalmology remained steady.
"We take great pride in the belief that the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary provides the best possible health care to our patients," said F. Curtis Smith, president, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. "I am happy to see that those surveyed by U.S. News agree!"
The fourteenth annual "America's Best Hospitals" survey was conducted in conjunction with the National Opinion Research Center, a noted social-science research group at the University of Chicago. The survey assesses hospital care in 17 medical specialties.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician Receives William W. Montgomery Award

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BOSTON (July 16, 2003) - Michael J. McKenna, M.D., Associate Professor of Otology and Laryngology at the Harvard Medical School, and a resident of Southborough, Mass., recently received the William W. Montgomery Award for Excellence in Teaching from the graduating otolaryngology residents at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
The William W. Montgomery Award is presented annually to the physician who the graduating resident class feels has been an inspirational teacher during residency training. Dr. McKenna was chosen as this year's recipient because of his dedication and involvement in formal lectures, case conferences, and day-to-day teaching activities that help train the next generation of otolaryngologists. Dr. McKenna first came to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary for his residency in 1988.


Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician Named Ophthalmology Teacher of the Year

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BOSTON (July 16 , 2003) - Bonnie An Henderson M.D., Director of the Cataract and General Eye Services, and a resident of Dover, Mass., recently received the award for Ophthalmology Teacher of the Year from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The Teacher of the Year Award is presented annually to the physician who has made a large contribution to the education of students in ophthalmology.
Dr. Henderson graduated at Dartmouth Medical School. She performed her residency at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and was asked to join the staff in 1997.

 

Boston Fundraiser Joins Infirmary as Senior Development Officer

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BOSTON (July 10, 2003) - Helaine Silverman, a resident of Boston, Mass., recently joined the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary as a Senior Development Officer. Silverman brings major and planned gift support to the Infirmary from individuals, foundations and corporations.
Prior to joining the Infirmary, Ms. Silverman was Director of Capital Giving at WBUR 90.9 FM and Associate Director of Planned and Major Gifts at Brandeis University. Ms. Silverman received her master's degree from Harvard Graduate School of Education and her bachelor of arts degree from Smith College.



Eye Safety on the Fourth of July

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BOSTON (June 26, 2003) - Physicians at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary are reminding people to make eye safety a priority if they are going to use fireworks or view fireworks during the Independence Day holiday.
"Fireworks are capable of producing the worst type of eye injuries because they burn at such a high temperature and travel at such high rates of speed," says Bonnie An Henderson, M.D., Director of the General Eye Service. "Almost all types of fireworks produce fast-moving, blunt objects. Not only is their direction unpredictable and inaccurate, but most fireworks travel too fast for people to move out of the way."
According to the United States Eye Injury Registry, approximately 12,000 Americans are treated in emergency departments annually for firework-related injuries, and of these, it is estimated that 20% are eye injuries.
Bottle rockets are a major cause of fireworks-related eye injuries and nearly all serious eye injuries are caused by them. However, other fireworks can rupture, burn, cut, scrape and severely bruise the eye, as well as the facial areas surrounding the eye and the face. Dr. Henderson says that even sparklers are dangerous as they emit flying particles.

Dr. Henderson offers the following medical tips in case an eye injury does occur:
• Do not try to remove any protruding objects from the eye.
• Flush the eye with water to remove any particles that are present.
• Cover the eye loosely for comfort and seek immediate medical attention.
The Infirmary has an Eye Trauma Service which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to care for those with emergency eye injuries.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician Receives Massachusetts General Hospital's Jack Wittenberg Teaching Award

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BOSTON (June 19, 2003) - Hugh Curtin, M.D., the chief of Radiology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and a resident of Wellesley, Mass., recently received the Jack Wittenberg Teaching Award from Massachusetts General Hospital.
The Jack Wittenberg Teaching Award is presented annually to the physician who has made a large contribution to the education of radiology residents. Dr. Curtin was chosen as this year's recipient because of his dedication and involvement in formal lectures, case conferences, and day-to-day teaching activities that help train the next generation of radiologists. Dr. Curtin also teaches at Mass General Hospital in addition to his work at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

 

New Trustees Elected at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary

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617-573-4170

BOSTON (June 18, 2003) - William D. Haylon, Roberta W. Siegel and Ann Marie Cotton have all been elected trustees of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
Mr. Haylon, an entrepreneur from Wellesley, Mass., co-founded and sold two start-up companies and continues to be involved with several small companies as a board member. Mrs. Siegel is the Manager of Listener Services and Administrative Assistant to the CEO of Charles River Broadcasting, Classical 102.5, WCRB, Boston. Ms. Cotton is the Corporate Counsel/Director for J.C. Cannistraro, Inc.

 

Study Shows Higher Body Mass Index (BMI) Hastens the Progression of Age-related Macular Degeneration; Exercise May Slow the Disease

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Boston (June 9, 2003) - Overall and abdominal obesity may increase the risk of developing advanced age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment in the United States, and increased exercise may lower the risk, according to a paper in the June issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.
Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., lead author and Director, Epidemiology Unit, and Surgeon in Ophthalmology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, and co-authors found that body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and waist-hip ratio significantly increase the risk of progression to advanced AMD. Individuals with a BMI greater than 30 have a 2.4-fold increased risk of progressing to advanced AMD. Higher waist circumference was associated with a 2-fold increased risk, and higher waist-hip ratio was associated with a 1.8-fold increased risk of progressing to advanced AMD.
On the other hand, physical activity tended to decrease the risk of progression to advanced AMD, said Seddon.
"These results provide new information regarding modifiable factors for individuals with the early or intermediate stages of this disease," Seddon said. "Since the impact of AMD on our growing elderly population is rising, finding means to reduce the burden of visual loss related its progression is of utmost importance. Thus far, as shown in our previous studies, only cigarette smoking and selected fat consumption are well-established, modifiable risk factors."
Based on the results of this study, patients with AMD should be encouraged to maintain a healthy weight and engage in physical exercise. Potential mechanisms include the beneficial effect on vascular status.
Results of the study were derived from the Progression Study of Macular Degeneration, which is a prospective longitudinal study designed by Dr. Seddon to determine multiple risk factors for the onset and progression of AMD. There were 261 participants in the study, 102 males and 159 females, mean age 72.8, who were followed for an average of 4.6 years. All had some form of AMD and were examined annually by Dr. Seddon to determine if their disease worsened.

Bullet Points
Progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Association with Body Mass Index, Waist Circumference, and Waist-Hip Ratio
Seddon,JM., Cote,J, Davis,NJ., Rosner, B.
Arch Ophthalmol. 2003;121:785-792
• Researchers evaluated the relationship between measures of obesity and body fat distribution, specifically body mass index, waist circumference, and waist-hip ratio, and progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among elderly individuals.
" Results were derived from our Progression Study of Macular Degeneration, which is a prospective longitudinal study designed by Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., to determine multiple risk factors for the onset and progression of advanced AMD.
• There were 261 participants in the study, 102 males and 159 females, mean age 72.8.
• All participants had some form of AMD when they entered the study and were examined annually by Dr. Seddon to determine if their disease status worsened. Participants were followed for an average of 4.6 years.
• During the study, 101 participants progressed to a more advanced stage of AMD, which is associated with loss of vision.
• Overall and abdominal obesity increase the risk of progression to advanced AMD. BMI, waist circumference and waist-hip ratio significantly increase the risk of progression to advanced AMD. Individuals with a BMI = 30 have a 2.4-fold increased risk of progressing to advanced AMD. Higher waist circumference was associated with a 2-fold increased risk and higher waist-hip ratio was associated with a 1.8 fold increased risk of progressing to advanced AMD.
• Additionally, we found that physical activity tended to decrease risk of progression of AMD.
• These results provide new information regarding modifiable factors for individuals with the early or intermediate stages of this disease. These preventative measures deserve additional research and greater emphasis.
 

Infirmary Announces New Hearing Aid Center and Launches Web Site

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617-573-3341

BOSTON (May 21, 2003) - The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and Department of Audiology recently launched a new Web site in conjunction with the opening of a new Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant Center.
The Center offers a full range of auditory rehabilitative services for infants through adults, including evaluations for hearing aids and cochlear implants, hearing aid sales, fitting and orientation, and cochlear implant programming and follow-up. Auditory rehabilitation sessions are tailored to individual need and weekly classes are available to refresh hearing aid skills and troubleshoot problems.
"The Center can provide individuals with the information and tools they need to maximize their performance with hearing aids, cochlear implants and other assistive devices," says Sharon G. Kujawa, Ph.D., Director of the Audiology Department and Associate Professor, Department of Otology & Laryngology, Harvard Medical School. "Our new Web site is another great resource for our patients. We have included information we hope will help our readers learn about the different hearing aid
technologies on the market, as well as hearing aid care and troubleshooting guides and tips for talking to individuals with hearing loss. Our diagnostic and auditory rehabilitation services for children and adults are also described in detail."

 

Infirmary Hires New Director of Marketing

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BOSTON (May 14, 2003) - M. Carol Brennan, a resident of Charlestown, Mass., recently joined the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) as Director of Marketing. Her responsibilities include creating and implementing marketing plans for MEEI and its various departments.
Prior to joining the Infirmary, Ms. Brennan worked as a marketing consultant in Boston for a variety of non-profit clients. She has also held brand management positions in the health and beauty care industries.
Ms. Brennan received her master's in business administration from The Carroll Graduate School of Management at Boston College, where she served on the alumni board for a number of years. She is a member of the Boston Women Communicators and the Charlestown Preservation Society.