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2006 Press Releases 

 

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Elects William H. York as Trustee
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Dec. 18, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has elected William H. York, a resident of Swampscott, Mass., as Trustee, Member of the Corporation for the Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Mr. York’s career in the automotive industry spans 25 years as the owner and operator of three retail sales and service franchises. He also formerly served as Director of the New England Olds Dealers Advertising Association and the Mass. State Auto Dealers Association, as well as Director, Secretary and Treasurer of Automotive Supply, a large parts purchasing coop of GM dealers. He also held the position of Vice President of Sales and Contract Administration at Aritech Corporation.

Mr. York holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Elects Charles E. Curtis as Trustee
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Dec. 18, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has elected Charles E. Curtis, a resident of Wrentham, Mass., as Trustee, Member of the Corporation for the Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Mr. Curtis is the Chief Financial Officer and Partner, as well as a founding member, of Mayo Investment Advisors, LLC, an SEC registered investment advisor managing more than $1.3 billion in assets. He has also served as Senior Vice-President of Finance and Taxes for CDC IXIS Asset Management, North America, LLP. Mr. Curtis holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Massachusetts and a master’s degree in taxation from Bentley College.

 

Fernandez appointed President, CEO of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Contact: Public Affairs
(617) 573-4170

Boston (Dec.7, 2006) -- John Fernandez has been appointed president and chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and of its parent company, Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Inc., effective Jan. 1, 2007. The announcement was made by Diane E. Kaneb, chair of the hospital’s Board of Directors.

Fernandez has an impressive record of leadership success at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), serving as vice president of Clinical Service for the last eight years. During his 14-year tenure at BWH, he has been an effective partner to several chiefs of services, enabling the hospital’s surgical specialties, radiology and pathology departments to thrive in their clinical and academic missions. John’s accomplishments are many: he has overseen major construction projects, improved services and operations, and achieved aggressive volume and financial goals.

Fernandez helped bring the services of BWH to other health care providers to ensure community access to needed care. “John embraced a vision of the right care in the right place and realized the benefits to our patients," said Gary Gottlieb, president of BWH. "He played key roles in Brigham and Women's expansion to Faulkner Hospital, strengthening our relationship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and developing partnerships with South Shore Hospital and Milford Regional Medical Center."

“Known for his collaborative working style and energetic personality, John is the ideal individual to lead the next phase of MEEI’s growth to ensure and enhance its reputation as one of the finest specialty hospitals in the world,” Kaneb said.

A graduate of the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio, Fernandez received his Master’s in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining BWH, Fernandez was assistant administrator of the clinical AIDS program at Boston City Hospital and assistant to the president at Bell Associates, Inc. in Cambridge. He is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and COO Healthcare Roundtable and serves on the Boston Medflight, Inc. Board of Directors as Board Treasurer.

Fernandez succeeds Curt Smith, who announced his intention to resign earlier in the year. “I would like to express my personal appreciation to Curt Smith for all of his service to the Infirmary and success over the past 17 years and for his efforts to ensure a smooth transition,” Kaneb said. “He has done a wonderful job of placing the Infirmary in a position of strength for the future.”

 

Research Suggests New Treatment Approaches for Glaucoma
Experiments Show How Increased Pressure in the Eye Leads to Blindness
Contact: Public Affairs
(617) 573-4170

Boston (Dec. 5, 2006) New research from Children’s Hospital Boston and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary may help explain how glaucoma causes blindness, revealing the chain of cellular and molecular events that ultimately damage the optic nerve, preventing visual information from traveling from the eye to the brain. The study, done in mice, indicates possible targets for intervention, including an inflammatory molecule called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), which is already targeted by some existing drugs.

“These findings give a whole new approach to thinking about glaucoma therapy,” says Joan Miller, M.D., chief of Ophthalmology at the MEEI and a coauthor of the study, which will appear online December 6 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Glaucoma affects an estimated 3 million Americans, and it’s speculated that an equal number of people are affected but undiagnosed. The disease is six to eight times more common in African-Americans (in whom it is the leading cause of blindness) than in Caucasians, and six times more common in people over age 60 than in younger people. The primary risk factor for glaucoma is increased pressure in the eye, measured by the familiar “puff” test and other screening examinations. If glaucoma is diagnosed early, eyedrops or surgery to lower intraocular pressure can often prevent further optic-nerve damage and halt vision loss. However, it has not been understood how the increased pressure leads to optic-nerve damage.

Working in a mouse model, lead author Toru Nakazawa, M.D., Ph.D. of Children’s and MEEI, senior author Larry Benowitz, Ph.D. of Children’s Neurobiology Program and Department of Neurosurgery, and Miller and colleagues at the MEEI, made several key observations. They showed that:

elevated intraocular pressure causes levels of TNF-alpha to increase in the retina;

the rise in TNF-alpha activates microglia, cells that comprise part of the eye’s immune system;

the activated microglia kill many of the optic nerve’s oligodendrocytes (support cells that produce and maintain myelin, the insulating coating on nerve fibers);

retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), the nerve cells in the eye that send visual information to the brain via the optic nerve, subsequently die off, consistent with previous research establishing that oligodendrocyte loss leads to the death of RGCs.

“The end stage of glaucoma is a loss of retinal ganglion cells,” says Benowitz. “Now we have some very nice evidence that TNF-alpha plays an essential role in this loss.”

When TNF-alpha was injected directly into the eyes of mice with normal intraocular pressure, the same chain of events occurred: microglia were activated, oligodendrocytes died off, and RGCs were lost. But none of these events occurred in genetically engineered mice that were unable to produce TNF-alpha (or its cellular receptor, TNFR2), even when intraocular pressure was raised.

Moreover, the researchers showed – for the first time – that blocking TNF-alpha’s action with an antibody prevented loss of oligodendrocytes and RGCs when intraocular pressure was raised. In addition, genetically engineered mice that were unable to activate microglia (lacking the CD11b genes) enjoyed similar protection when intraocular pressure or TNF-alpha levels were raised.

“In the clinic, lowering intraocular pressure is a reliable treatment for glaucoma, but sometimes it is hard to lower the pressure even after eyedrop treatment or surgery,” says Nakazawa, now at Tohoku University in Japan. “Here we show that blocking TNF-alpha function may have a benefit as a neuroprotective treatment.”

Drugs that inhibit TNF-alpha – including monoclonal antibodies and soluble receptors that soak TNF-alpha up and remove it from action – already exist and have been used to treat other inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, the researchers note.

“These drugs have potent systemic effects, so we’d want to develop a very safe long term and local treatment,” says Miller. “Theoretically, it might be possible to put slow-release TNF alpha inhibitors just outside the eye, so you wouldn’t have to have frequent injections.”

Blockade of downstream microglial activation with anti-inflammatory agents might represent another therapeutic strategy, adds Benowitz.

The study was supported by an Alcon Research Award, a Bausch & Lomb Vitreoretinal Fellowship, the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Elects Terence Wong to Board of Directors
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Nov. 21, 2006) — Terence Wong, a resident of Wayland, Mass., has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Inc.

Mr. Wong has been an MEEI Trustee since 2003. He is the President of Supercon, Inc., a specialty wire manufacturing company in Shrewsbury, Mass., and a leading supplier of specialty wire for superconducting, medical, electrical and industrial markets. He received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in management, both from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician Michael McKenna, M.D., Appointed as Harvard Medical School Professor of Otology and Laryngology
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Nov. 13, 2006) — Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary physician Michael McKenna, M.D., a resident of Southborough, Mass., has been appointed Professor of Otology and Laryngology at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. McKenna completed his residency and a research fellowship at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., in addition to a fellowship at the House Ear Institute, Los Angeles, Calif. Dr. McKenna’s areas of specialization include otology, neurotology and skull base surgery. He is the author of numerous publications and he is the primary investigator in current research, funded by a National Institute of Health RO1 grant, which focuses on the molecular basis of otopathology.

“Dr. McKenna has continuously exhibited excellence in his clinical, research and teaching endeavors. He couldn’t be more deserving of this honor,” said Dr. Joseph B. Nadol, MEEI Chief of Otolaryngology and Professor and Chairman, Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School.

 

Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary Cafeteria Eliminates Frying Oil with Trans Fats
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Nov. 21, 2006) — In light of evidence suggesting detrimental health effects, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary cafeteria has switched to new frying oil that contains no trans fats.

According to the American Heart Association, trans fats, also called trans fatty acids, are formed when liquid vegetable oils are put through a process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen is added to make oils more solid. Evidence suggests that consumption of trans fat raises LDL (bad cholesterol) levels and lowers HDL (good cholesterol) levels, increasing the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

“At MEEI, we strive daily to provide the most beneficial environment possible to patients, employees and others who visit our facility. This change is just one way to remain true to our mission as a healthcare institution,” said Bill Anzivino, MEEI director of dietary services.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Installs State-of-the-Art MRI
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3340

Boston (Nov. 16, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) has installed one of the newest and highest resolution magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners available, which will allow for faster and higher resolution imaging for improved and more accurate patient diagnoses, in addition to faster exams. The scanner’s open design lends itself to improved patient comfort for both adult and pediatric patients, reducing cases of patient claustrophobia.

The state-of-the-art MRI will allow MEEI to continue in its tradition of providing the best quality of care to our patients and providing our physicians with the best tools to provide that care. For general information about the new MRI, please call 617-573-4267.

 

Jury Rules in Favor of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Visudyne Case
Contact: Public Affairs
(617) 573-4170

Boston (Nov. 7, 2006) -- The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) announces that yesterday, in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, a jury found in favor of MEEI on claims of unjust enrichment and unfair trade practices against QLT Inc.

The jury found QLT Inc. liable for 3.01% royalty on worldwide net sales of Visudyne, as well as for MEEI’s attorney’s fees. The case, which began in 2000, relates to the development of Visudyne as a treatment for the wet form of macular degeneration. It was tried to the jury over the past three weeks.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 50 in the Western world. Visudyne was the first drug therapy approved for this devastating disease and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000. Net worldwide sales of Visudyne to date total approximately $2.2 billion, according to QLT Inc.

“Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is proud of the pioneering work of its researchers, Drs. Joan Miller and Evangelos Gragoudas, in the development of this landmark treatment,” said MEEI President F. Curtis Smith. “The Infirmary is dedicated to developing treatments for debilitating diseases like macular degeneration.”

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Partners with WaveLight, Inc. To Acquire Newest Laser Vision Correction Platform
Eye-Q System Provides Fastest LASIK Treatments in the Country
Contact: Laser Vision Correction Center:
617-573-3234

Boston, October 25, 2006 - The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, announced today that it is the first institution in the United States to acquire the newest FDA-approved LASIK technology. The ALLEGRETTO WAVE® Eye-Q, sold by WaveLight Inc., delivers the fastest laser vision correction treatments available today.

”Our hospital is devoted to providing patients with the safest and most advanced technology available,” said Roberto Pineda II, M.D., Director of the Refractive Surgery Service at MEEI and Assistant Professor, Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “We are happy to now offer the Eye-Q system as we believe the laser's remarkable speed, precision, and accuracy supports our commitment to our refractive surgery patients.”

The Eye-Q system, manufactured by WaveLight AG, corrects one diopter of nearsightedness or farsightedness in just two seconds. Therefore, the average treatment time to complete the LASIK procedure is between just eight and ten seconds. Shorter LASIK treatments have been shown to reduce healing time while decreasing the risk of post-operative infections, over-corrections and under-corrections. In addition, patient comfort is enhanced as the amount of time required to focus during the procedure is significantly reduced.

The Eye-Q is a next generation system featuring WaveLight’s proprietary PerfectPulse TechnologyTM to ensure maximum safety at high speed. PerfectPulse Technology was specifically developed to monitor and control each laser pulse that is delivered to the cornea during the LASIK procedure. Another component of this technology is a high speed, active eye-tracking device which monitors eye movement 400 times per second and adjusts the laser beam accordingly in less than six milliseconds.

This new LASIK platform also features WaveLight’s proprietary Wavefront Optimized™ technology, which has been shown to preserve the natural shape of the cornea and prevent the induction of optical errors that could lead to night vision problems or loss of contrast sensitivity (the ability to see the images crisply).

“The Eye-Q has been one of the most sought after LASIK platforms throughout the world and we are now pleased to offer this advanced new platform to US physicians,” said Wolfgang Tolle, CEO of WaveLight, Inc. “Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, a teaching affiliate of the prestigious Harvard Medical School, is an ideal location for the first Eye-Q laser, given the institution’s reputation for providing excellent patient care and its commitment to leadership in refractive surgery.”

 

Smith to step down from Presidency of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Contact: Public Affairs
(617) 573-4170

Boston (Oct. 10, 2006) – F. Curtis Smith, President of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, has announced that he will step down from his post at the end of the year. Smith expressed a desire, after nearly 17 years at the helm of the hospital, to seek new challenges in new arenas.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure at the Infirmary and believe that its future is bright,” Smith said. “The physicians, nurses, researchers and other members of the team are outstanding. I expect continued great things from the Infirmary and have no doubt that they will be achieved.”

Smith joined MEEI, one of the nation’s few remaining independent specialty hospitals, in 1990 as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. In 1992, he was named President of MEEI.

”When Curt came on board, this venerable institution was in the midst of a serious financial crisis which threatened its existence and independence. His leadership provided the stability which enabled the Infirmary to maintain its worldwide leadership in its chosen fields, ophthalmology and otolaryngology. During his tenure facilities were modernized, and research programs and charitable contributions were increased dramatically. Curt has our gratitude for achievements and best wishes for the next stage in his working life,” said Sheldon Buckler, Ph.D., MEEI Chairman Emeritus, who served as Chair of the MEEI Board of Directors from 1996 to 2002.

Accomplishments during Smith’s tenure at MEEI include:

Increasing philanthropic support from $2,500,000 in the early 1990s to $12,600,000 today.

Completing a $50 million capital campaign in 1999.

Growing the endowment from $30,000,000 to $83,000,000.

Creating a decentralized, personable, physician-focused organization.

Smith supported the growth of the hospital-based faculty. During his tenure, the number of hospital based physicians grew to 96 and the number of community-based physicians increased to 339.

Working collaboratively with the chiefs of service to balance the interests of the hospital’s clinical operation with its teaching and research missions.

Achieving multiple accreditations with commendation from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

Establishing a Facial and Cosmetic Surgery Center.

Establishing a Laser Vision Correction Service.

Expanding the pediatric otolaryngology program, including the development of a new Pediatric Voice, Speech and Swallowing Center.

Expanding the head and neck surgery program.

Opening Boston’s first Center for Hyperbaric Medicine.

Supporting the development of subspecialty centers of excellence, such as the Voice and Speech laboratory.

Increasing research funding from $9.7 million to $22.6 million.

Smith was instrumental in expanding research space and supporting the expansion of the number of investigators. Eleven labs with more than 20,000 square feet were expanded, renovated or created during Smith’s time at MEEI.

When Smith arrived in January 1990, the organization had suffered consecutive losses of $10.2 million and $4.8 million. Today, it is projected that the hospital will generate a positive bottom line of more than $1 million this fiscal year. The hospital has prepared a positive budget for fiscal year 2007. Smith placed the MEEI on a sustainable financial footing by implementing realistic budgets and developing new programmatic initiatives. He did this while ensuring that the hospital continued to focus on meeting community needs and furthering its charitable mission.

Smith has also been a staunch supporter of the hospital’s academic mission in collaboration with Harvard Medical School. Eleven individuals were promoted to full professor during his tenure. "Curt has been a true champion of academic medicine," said Harvard Medical School's Joseph B. Martin, M.D., Ph.D., Dean of the Harvard Faculty of Medicine. "One of Curt's many leadership roles has been to strengthen ophthalmology and otolaryngology teaching, leading to improved patient care."

Diane E. Kaneb, current Chair of the MEEI Board of Directors, expressed her appreciation to Smith. “The Board is grateful for the accomplishments of Curt’s long tenure,” said Kaneb. “His hard work and dedication has helped the hospital succeed in its mission. The goal of the Board now is to engage a new Chief Executive Officer to lead the next phase of MEEI’s growth to ensure and enhance its reputation as one of the finest specialty hospitals in the world.”

A graduate of St. Lawrence University, Smith received his Master’s in Public Health from Harvard University and his Master’s in Business Administration from Northeastern University. Prior to joining the MEEI’s administration, Smith served as senior vice president at the New England Deaconess Hospital. Previously, he was a senior administrator with Harper-Grace Hospitals, Inc., in Detroit, Mich., and served as a hospital administrator with the Boston Hospital for Women, now a part of the Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

 

Medical Resident Work-Hour Restrictions Yield Little Improvement in Perceived Quality of Patient Care
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Oct. 10, 2006) — Research conducted by participants at several medical schools, including co-authors Michael J. Cunningham, M.D., and Roland D. Eavey, M.D., of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Pediatric Otolaryngology Service, Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, has found that reducing the amount of work hours alone for surgical residents does not appear to improve quality of patient care. The study is published in the October issue of the Journal of Surgical Research.

Research was conducted on a convenience sample of 156 residents from three surgical specialties who completed questionnaires designed to measure subjective impressions about the quality of patient care. The sample consisted of residents who were already regulated by work-hour restriction (maximum 80-hour work week) and residents who had not previously been regulated by work-hour restriction. With a 94.5 percent response rate, more than 88 percent of residents reported that the quality of patient care remained unchanged (63 percent) or was worse (26 percent) after work-hour restrictions had been implemented. This response was particularly true from those residents who had not previously been regulated by work-hour restrictions. Overall, residents reported fewer fatigue-related errors following implementation of work-hour restrictions. However, more errors were perceived to be related to continuity of care, miscommunication and cross-coverage availability.

“The bad news is that a single change to relieve long work schedules of surgical house officers in order to improve quality apparently has ‘failed,’” says senior author, Dr. Eavey, Director of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. “Those same, well-rested house officers perceive that patient care quality unfortunately did not improve. The good news is that the survey has revealed realistic targets for future quality improvement: continuity, cross-coverage and communication – the ‘C’ factors.”

Research was conducted at Department of Surgery, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY; Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York, NY; Department of Education Development, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.; Department of Pain Management and Palliative Care, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York, NY; Crawford Long Medical Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA; and the Pediatric Otolaryngology Service, Department of Otolaryngology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Department of Otology and Laryngology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

Research was funded by the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, New York.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Reza Dana, M.D., as Director of Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Oct. 10, 2006)—The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary  has appointed Reza Dana, M.D., M.Sc., M.P.H., a resident of Cambridge, Mass., as Director of its Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service. Dr. Dana has been an Associate Surgeon at MEEI since 2001 and has served as Acting Director of the Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service since April 2006. He is an Associate Professor and Senior Scientist at Harvard Medical School and specializes in the cornea and external diseases, ocular inflammation and uveitis, as well as corneal transplantation.

Dr. Dana received a Doctor of Medicine and a Master’s degree in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins University, and completed his residency at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary. In addition, he completed fellowships in both Cornea and External Diseases, and Immunology and Uveitis at the Wills Eye Hospital and MEEI, respectively. Dr. Dana also holds a Master’s degree in Healthcare Management from Harvard University.

In addition to his clinical duties at the MEEI, Dr. Dana performs research at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, where he is a Senior Scientist and W. Clement Stone Scholar. He has authored more than 160 peer-reviewed articles, reviews and book chapters. His most recent research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, revealed the previously unknown reason for the transparency of the human cornea.

“Dr. Dana is a supremely skilled clinician and researcher who has provided invaluable direction to the Service during his time as Acting Director. I look forward to his continued leadership as the Director of MEEI’s Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service,” says Joan W. Miller, M.D., MEEI Chief of Ophthalmology and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

MEEI’s Cornea and Refractive Surgery Service provides comprehensive diagnostic testing and treatment of corneal and external diseases, including cataract surgery and corneal transplantation, as well as refractive surgery.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Todd Stanganelli as Clinical Operations Manager of Ophthalmology
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3340

Boston (October 5, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear appointed Todd Stanganelli, a resident of Salem, N.H., as Clinical Operations of Ophthalmology.

In his new position, Mr. Stanganelli will be responsible for budget development and implementation as well as overall operations oversight. His scope of service will include Retina services, Vision Rehab., Neuro-Ophthalmology, the Optical shop, the satellite division, ERG and Pathology, as well as other service areas. Before joining MEEI, he worked in healthcare administration at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Dorchester Community Health Center.

Mr. Stanganelli received a bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in healthcare administration from the University of New Hampshire.

 

Common Variation in 3 Genes, including a New Noncoding Variant in the Complement Factor H Gene, Strongly Influences Risk of Developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Study published on-line in Nature Genetics
Contact: Public Affairs
(617) 573-4170

BOSTON (Aug. 28, 2006) -- Researchers in Boston have discovered a new common, noncoding variant in the Complement Factor H (CFH) gene that is associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness among persons aged 60 and older. Their analyses, for the first time, combine this new variant with all previously reported variants to estimate individual risk of advanced AMD. They observed additive accumulation of risk from alleles at these three genes, including CFH on chromosome 1, complement factor B (BF) and complement component 2 (C2) genes on chromosome 6, and the LOC gene on chromosome 10. They estimate that genotypes related to five variants in these three genes explain about half the sibling risk of AMD in the study population. Results are published online in Nature Genetics.

The principal investigator, Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., Director of the Epidemiology Unit and Macular Degeneration specialist at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and Associate Professor at Harvard Medical School, collaborated with co-authors from the Center for Human Genetic Research at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Program in Medical and Population Genetics, Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They studied 2,172 unrelated European-descended individuals 60 years of age or older, who were diagnosed on the basis of ocular examination and ocular photography (1,238 affected individuals and 934 controls). Affected individuals were defined as those having advanced AMD related to visual loss with either geographic atrophy (dry) or neovascular (wet) disease. Controls were individuals without AMD. The mean age was 74 for controls (54% female) and 78 years for affected individuals (55% female). Both Illumina and Sequenom methods were used to genotype about 1540 single nucleotide polymorphisms (snp’s).

AMD is a "common disease" meaning that it is complex, i.e., many genes and environmental factors contribute to the disease, similar to heart disease, schizophrenia and diabetes. The combinations of variation within a given gene and between genes, along with environmental factors, confers one’s lifetime risk of a disease like AMD. Variations in the BF/C2 gene are protective for AMD, whereas the more common variations in the other two genes, CFH and LOC, increase risk of AMD. The authors provide new calculations that one’s lifetime risk of AMD ranges from less than 1% to more than 50%, depending on the variations one has in these three genes. The research team also showed that the three genes do not interact, but confer risk independently.

AMD is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness among persons aged 60 and older. With the elderly population steadily growing, the burden related to this loss of visual function will increase. Limited treatment options exist and prevention remains the best approach for addressing this public health concern.

“The overall implication of this study is that depending on your genotype related to these five variants in three genes, and most likely more to be discovered, preventive and therapeutic drug targets may be better designed and tailored to an individual's need, ie., personalized medicine,” said Dr. Seddon.

This study evaluated a large number of samples from individuals with advanced AMD, including both geographic atrophy or “dry” AMD, and neovascular disease or “wet” AMD, which cause visual loss. It is noteworthy that no differences were found between these subtypes of advanced AMD with respect to the variations found in the genes.

Dr. Seddon and her colleagues previously reported that the heritability of AMD is high (46% to 71%) in a large US cohort of elderly twins (Arch Ophthalmol 2005), and that another common CFH variant as well as smoking and higher body mass index are independently related to advanced AMD (Human Heredity 2006). A decade ago they reported the increased risk of AMD attributable to cigarette smoking (JAMA 1996). They also found that high body mass index is a risk factor for progression of the disease. (Arch Ophthalmol 2003).

Co-authors include the lead author Julian Maller from the Center for Human Genetic Research (CHGR), MGH, Sarah George from the Epidemiology Unit, MEEI, and Shaun Purcell, David Altshuler, and Mark Daly from CHGR, MGH and the Broad Institute. This most recent research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Foundation Fighting Blindness Inc., the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund, the Epidemiology Unit AMD Genetics Research Fund, and the Broad Institute Center for Genotyping and Analysis, supported by a grant form the National Center for Research Resources.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Hires Dean Cestari as Neuro-Ophthalmologist
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Aug. 7, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has hired Dean Cestari, M.D., a resident of Boston, Mass., as a neuro-ophthalmologist. MEEI’s neuro-ophthalmology service provides regular and emergency evaluation of diseases that cause visual loss. Dr. Cestari has a special research interest in developing an animal model for ischemic optic neuropathy. His clinical interests include all aspects of neuro-ophthalmic disease, as well as adult strabismus.

Dr. Cestari received a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University in New York and a medical degree from Tel Aviv University’s Sackler School of Medicine. He completed residencies in ophthalmology and neurology at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, an affiliate of Cornell University Medical College. Dr. Cestari also completed a fellowship in Neuro-Ophthalmology at MEEI.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Jackie Solberg as the Director of Pre-Award and Regulatory Compliance
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Aug. 2, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary appointed Jackie Solberg, a resident of Attleboro, Mass., as the director of Pre-Award and Regulatory Compliance.

Ms. Solberg received a bachelor’s degree in music from Denison University in Granville, Ohio and holds a Certificate in Research Administration. She expanded her experience at the Joslin Diabetes Center for five years as the Director of the Office of Sponsored Research. She worked at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center for more than 15 years in various positions, most recently as the Research Administrative Director in the Department of Medicine.

 

Samuel C. Fleming Elected to Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (Aug. 4, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has elected Samuel C. Fleming, a resident of Weston, Mass., to the Board of Directors of Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Inc.

Fleming is managing director of Briland LLC, which specializes in healthcare investments. He is chairman emeritus of Decision Resources, Inc., a leading provider of strategic information to the global biopharmaceutical, medical device, and healthcare insurance industries. Mr. Fleming founded Arthur D. Little Decision Resources. In 1989, he led a buyout of the firm to form Decision Resources, where he was chairman and chief executive officer through 2003. Earlier he was a senior vice president of Arthur D. Little and president of Arthur D. Little Decision Resources.

Fleming is a member of the Board of CareGroup, Inc. and previously served as chairman of the Board of the New England Baptist Hospital. He is vice chairman of the Board of Cornell University and a director of Commonwealth Fund, a leading healthcare foundation, and Picker Institute, which focuses on improving healthcare quality from the patient’s perspective.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Hires Researcher Ruth Anne Eatock
Contact: Public Affairs
617-573-3341

Boston (July 24, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has hired Ruth Anne Eatock, Ph.D., a resident of Newton, Mass., as a researcher in its Eaton-Peabody Laboratory of Auditory Physiology (EPL). The Eaton-Peabody Laboratory is the largest basic research program in the world devoted exclusively to hearing and hearing disorders.

Dr. Eatock’s research will explore how the sensory cells of the inner ear work, specifically, the nature of electrical signals carried by sensory cells called “hair cells,” which play a role in detecting sound and maintaining balance. Dysfunction of hair cells can lead to hearing loss, dizziness, vertigo and unstable vision.

Dr. Eatock received a doctorate in neurobiology from the California Institute of Technology and most recently held the position of professor at Baylor College of Medicine in both the department of otorhinolaryngology and communicative sciences, and in the department of neuroscience.

“Dr. Eatock is a world-class neuroscientist whose interests span the hearing and vestibular worlds, as well as the systems neuroscience and molecular biology worlds. Her recruitment to the EPL and the MEEI will strengthen existing links between these different research spheres,” says EPL Director Charles Liberman, Ph.D.

 

Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology Awarded Research to Prevent Blindness Grant
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Boston (July 21, 2006)—Harvard Medical School’s Department of Ophthalmology has been awarded a grant of $110, 000 from Research to Prevent Blindness. Under the direction of Joan W. Miller, M.D., Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at HMS and Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the grant will support research into the causes, treatments, and prevention of diseases that cause blindness.

In previous years, funding from this unrestricted grant has enabled research into the causes of age-related macular degeneration and expanded operation of vision research facilities, among other Infirmary endeavors.

“It is funding such as this that allows the department of ophthalmology to continue the research necessary to determine the factors involved in vision loss and ultimately provide the best treatment to patients,” Dr. Miller said.

 

Scientists Discover What Keeps the Human Cornea Transparent and Free of Blood Vessels thereby Allowing for Vision: Results hold promise for treatments of eye disease and cancer
Editor' Note: Illustrations of this discovery are available. Please contact pjacobs12@comcast.net
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BOSTON (July 17, 2006)-Scientists at the Harvard Department of Ophthalmology's Schepens Eye Research Institute and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary are the first to learn why the cornea, the clear window of the eye, is free of blood vessels--a unique phenomenon that makes vision possible. The key, say the researchers, is the unexpected presence of large amounts of the protein VEGFR-3 (vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3) on the top epithelial layer of normal healthy corneas. According to their findings, VEGFR-3 halts angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) by acting as a "sink" to bind or neutralize the growth factors sent by the body to stimulate the growth of blood vessels. The cornea has long been known to have the remarkable and unusual property of not having blood vessels, but the exact reasons for this had remained unknown.

These results, published in the July 25, 2006 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and in the July 17 online edition, not only solve a profound scientific mystery, but also hold great promise for preventing and curing blinding eye disease and illnesses such as cancer, in which blood vessels grow abnormally and uncontrollably, since this phenomenon, present in the cornea normally, can be used therapeutically in other tissues.

"This is a very significant discovery," says Dr. Reza Dana, Senior Scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute, head of the Cornea Service at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, and the senior author and principal investigator of the study. "A clear cornea is essential for vision. Without the ability to maintain a blood-vessel-free cornea, our vision would be significantly impaired," he says, adding that clear, vessel-free corneas are vital to any animal that needs a high level of visual acuity to survive.

The cornea, one of only a few tissues in the body that actively keep themselves vessel-free (the other is cartilage), is the thin transparent tissue that covers the front of the eye. It is the clarity of the cornea that allows light to pass onto the retina and from there to the brain for interpretation. When the cornea is clouded by injury, infection or abnormal blood vessel growth, vision is severely impaired, if not destroyed.

Scientists have been wrestling with the "clarity" puzzle for many decades. And, while some previous studies have revealed small clues, none have pointed to one major mechanism, until this study.

In most other tissues of the body, blood vessel growth or angiogenesis occurs in response to a need for increased blood flow to heal an injured or infected area. The immune system sends in growth factors such as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to bind with a protein receptor called VEGFR-2 on blood vessels to trigger vessel growth. Three forms of VEGF-A, C, and D--bind with this receptor. Two of them, C and D also bind with VEGFR-3, which is usually found on cells lining lymphatic vessels, to stimulate the growth of lymphatic vessels.

Dana's team began to suspect the involvement of VEGFR-3 in stopping blood growth in corneas when they noticed unexpectedly that large amounts of the protein seemed to exist naturally on healthy corneal epithelium, a previously unknown location for the receptor. Dana and his team were already aware from clinical experience that the epithelium most likely played a role in suppressing blood vessel growth on the cornea, having witnessed blood vessels develop on corneas stripped of their epithelial layers.

They began to theorize that the large amounts of VEGFR-3, in this new, non-vascular location, might be attracting and sucking up all the C and D VEGF growth factors, thereby blocking them from binding with VEGFR-2. And, because this binding took place in a non-vascular setting, the growth factors were neutralized.

To test their theory, the team conducted a series of experiments.

Using corneal tissue from mice, the team did the following.

*They conducted chemical analyses that demonstrated that VEFGR-3 and the gene that expressed it were indeed present on the corneal epithelium.

*Next, in two separate experiments, they compared corneas with and without epithelial layers that were injured. They found that only the corneas without epithelial layers developed blood vessels, implicating the role of the epithelium in suppressing blood vessel growth.

*To further prove their theory, they added a VEGFR-3 substitute to corneas stripped of their epithelial layers and found that vessel growth continued to be suppressed, replacing the normal anti-angiogenic role of the epithelium.

*Finally they exposed intact corneas to an agent that blocked VEGFR-3 and found that blood vessels began to grow, formally demonstrating that the corneal epithelium is key to suppression of blood vessels and that the key mechanism is expression of VEGFR-3.

"The results from this series of tests, confirmed our belief that the presence of VEGFR-3 is the major factor in preventing blood vessel formation in the cornea," says Dana, who says that the discovery will have a far reaching impact on the development of new therapies for eye and other diseases.

"Drugs designed to manipulate the levels of this protein could heal corneas that have undergone severe trauma or help shrink tumors fed by rapidly growing abnormal blood vessels," he says. "In fact, the next step in our work is exactly this."

Other authors of the study include: Claus Cursiefen* +, Lu Chen*, Magali Saint-Geniez*, Pedram Hamrah*, Yiping Jin*, Saadia Rashid*, Bronislaw Pytowski**, Kris Persaud**, Yan Wu**, J. Wayne Streilein*Ý, Reza Dana* ++,

*The Schepens Eye Research Institute and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Dept. of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; +Dept. of Ophthalmology, Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg, Erlangen, Germany; **ImClone Systems, Inc., New York; ÝDr. J. Wayne Streilein deceased March 15 2004.

 

Study of WWII Twins Shows that Smoking Increases Risk and Omega-3 Fatty Acids in the Diet Decreases Risk of Blinding Disease
Study published in the July Issue of Archives of Ophthalmology
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BOSTON (July 10, 2006) -- Researchers in Boston studied elderly male twins and found that those who smoke or have a history of smoking had an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration as compared to those who never smoked. At the same time, those who ate more fish and had diets with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids reduced their risk of this blinding disease. Their findings are published in the July 2006 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Department of Biostatistics at Harvard Medical School studied 681 male twins from the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council World War II Veteran Twin Registry. To determine genetic and environmental risk factors for AMD, twins were surveyed for a prior diagnosis of AMD and underwent an eye examination, fundus photography, and food frequency and risk factor questionnaires. The study included 222 twins with intermediate and late stage AMD and 459 twins with no signs of the disease.

“Current smokers had a 1.9-fold increased risk of developing AMD, while past smokers had about a 1.7-fold increased risk,” said Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., director of the Epidemiology Unit at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “We also found that increased intake of fish reduced the risk of AMD, particularly if they ate two more servings per week. Dietary omega-3 fatty intake was also inversely associated with AMD. This study of twins provides further evidence that cigarette smoking increases risk while fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acid intake reduce risk of AMD.”

AMD is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness among persons aged 60 and older. With the elderly population steadily growing, the burden related to this loss of visual function will increase. Limited treatment options exist and prevention remains the best approach for addressing this public health concern.

Lead author Dr. Seddon and her colleagues previously reported that the heritability of AMD is high (46% to 71%) in this same cohort of twins (Arch Ophthalmol 2005). They also found that systemic markers of inflammation, including serum levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein, as well as plasma homocysteine are associated with AMD (JAMA 2004, Am J Ophthalmol 2006). A decade ago they reported the increased risk of AMD with cigarette smoking (JAMA 1996), and the decreased risk of this disease related to dietary intake of carotenoids and foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin (JAMA 1994). They also found in several of their study cohorts that fish intake appears beneficial and reduces risk of AMD (Arch Ophthalmol 2001, 2003, and current article), and high body mass index or obesity is also a risk factor for progression of the disease. (Arch Ophthalmol 2003).

 

Mass. Eye and Ear Ranked a Top Hospital for Ears and Eyes, in U.S. News’ “America’s Best Hospitals”
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Boston (July 7, 2006) -- The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary ranked third in the nation for otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) and fourth in the nation for ophthalmology (eyes), according to U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Hospitals” survey.

“The Infirmary’s reputation as one of the nation’s best hospitals is made possible by the dedication of the physicians, researchers, nurses, employees and volunteers who live and breathe our mission to provide outstanding care for our patients every day,” said F. Curtis Smith, president of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

The "America's Best Hospitals" rankings were produced by RTI International, a leading research organization in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

 

Type 2 Diabetes Increases the Risk of Glaucoma in Women Study published in the July Issue of Ophthalmology
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BOSTON (July 10, 2006) -- A 20-year study of women in the Nurses’ Health Study has shown that Type 2 diabetes is associated with primary open angle glaucoma (POAG), the most common form of glaucoma, accounting for about 60 to 70% of all glaucomas. The study is published in the July issue of the journal Ophthalmology.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School observed 76,3128 women who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study from 1980 to 2000. Eligible participants were at least 40 years old, did not have POAG at the beginning of the study, and reported receiving eye exams during follow-up. After controlling for age, race, hypertension, body mass index, physical activity, alcohol intake, smoking and family history of glaucoma, they found that type 2 diabetes was positively associated with POAG. However, the relation between type 2 diabetes and POAG did not increase with longer durations of type 2 diabetes.

“The study supports the notion that type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased risk of glaucoma,” said Louis Pasquale, M.D., lead author of the study and co-director of the Glaucoma Service at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “While obesity fuels the type 2 diabetes epidemic, it appears that factors unrelated to obesity contribute to the positive association between type 2 diabetes and glaucoma. We were surprised to find this. Our study had a large enough sample to allow us to focus on type 2 diabetes only and to study its relation to newly diagnosed POAG cases. We were also able to correct for other factors that could contribute to glaucoma. Our work suggests, but in now way proves, that factors other than lifestyle behavior contributing to insulin resistance could lead to elevated intraocular pressure and glaucoma.”

According to the National Eye Institute, POAG affects more than 2 million individuals in the United States and is one of the leading causes of blindness. With the rapid aging of the U.S. population, the number of individuals affected by the disease will increase to more than 3 million by 2020.

The study suggests that people with type 2 diabetes should be screened for glaucoma. As of 2002, Medicare provides coverage for glaucoma screenings in beneficiaries with diabetes, helping to enhance access for this group who may be at risk for visual loss from POAG.

This research was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

 

Smoking and High Body Mass Index Increase the Genetic Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
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BOSTON (June 30, 2006) – Researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and the Channing Laboratory, Harvard Medical School, report for the first time how two behavioral lifestyle factors together alter the genetic susceptibility to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), associated with the common coding variant in the complement factor H (CFH) gene, Y402H. After controlling for genotype, the modifiable lifestyle factors of smoking and body mass index (BMI) were related to increased risk of AMD. The susceptibility to advanced AMD conferred by this common genetic polymorphism was modified by BMI, meaning there was a statistically significant interaction between BMI and the Y402H genotype. Although there was no statistical interaction between smoking and the CFH genotype, both smoking and genotype were independently associated with increased risk of AMD.

Current cigarette smoking was associated with a fivefold increased risk and high BMI (30 or higher) was associated with a twofold higher risk of AMD. The homozygous risk genotype (CC) plus smoking conferred a tenfold higher risk of AMD, compared with non-smokers with the non-risk (TT) genotype, while the risk genotype plus higher BMI increased risk of AMD almost sixfold. Gene plus environment risk scores provided an area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve of 0.70-0.75. The attributable risks for the combination of genes and environment were 69% to 73%. These findings are published online now in the journal Human Heredity.

Subjects in this study were Caucasians who had either advanced AMD (574 people) or no evidence of AMD (280 individuals), based on ocular examination and ocular photographs. DNA samples were obtained from the genetic repository of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical trial for which Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., director of the Epidemiology Unit at MEEI and an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, was clinic director at MEEI. DNA samples were genotyped at the Broad Institute Center for Genotyping and Analysis, Boston, Mass. and statistical analyses were done in the Epidemiology Unit at MEEI.

“These findings convey an important message. Although we cannot change our genotype, we can alter or modify our risk of getting AMD by controlling our weight and not smoking,” said Dr. Seddon. “There is no question that genetic factors play an important role in this disease. However, individuals with the risk genotype may be more motivated to adhere to healthy lifestyles such as not smoking, maintaining a normal weight, getting exercise, eating an antioxidant rich diet, as well as fish, and getting exercise. ”

AMD is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness among persons aged 60 and older. With the elderly population steadily growing, the burden related to this loss of visual function will increase. Limited treatment options exist for the late stages of the disease and prevention remains a promising approach for addressing this public health concern.

Lead author Dr. Seddon and her colleagues have studied the genetics of AMD since 1989, and previously reported that the heritability of AMD is high (46% to 71%) in a cohort of WWII twins and that both genetic and environmental factors are involved (Arch Ophthalmol 2005), and that there is a familial aggregation (Am J Ophthalmol, 1997), as well as linkage of AMD to several chromosomes (Am J Hum Genetics 2003). A decade ago they reported the increased risk of AMD with cigarette smoking (JAMA 1996). They also reported the increased risk associated with higher body mass index or obesity (Arch Ophthalmol 2003). This article in Human Heredity is the first to combine both of these behavioral factors with genetic risk. Dr. Seddon and her colleagues have also found other cardiovascular risk factors to be related to AMD, including an increased risk with elevated C-reactive protein (JAMA 2004) and a reduced risk associated with fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake (Arch Ophthalmol 2001, 2003, 2006).

This most recent research was supported by the National Eye Institute, Bethesda, Md.; the Foundation Fighting Blindness Inc, Owing Mills, Md.; the Massachusetts Lions Eye Research Fund Inc., Northboro, Mass.; a grant from the National Center for Research Resources to the Broad Institute Center for Genotyping and Analysis, Cambridge, Mass.; and the Epidemiology Unit Genetics of AMD Research Fund, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Boston, Mass.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physician Mack Cheney, M.D., Appointed as Harvard Medical School Professor of Otology and Laryngology
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Boston (June 23, 2006) — Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary physician Mack Cheney, M.D., FACS, a resident of Brookline, Mass., has been promoted to Harvard Medical School Professor of Otology and Laryngology.

Dr. Cheney completed a clinical fellowship in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery at MEEI, a teaching partner of the Harvard Medical School, and has served as the Director of MEEI’s Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Service since 1988.

His major areas of focus have been head and neck reconstruction, reanimation of the paralyzed face, and auricular (ear) reconstruction.

Dr. Cheney is an active member of several professional societies, including the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the New England Otolaryngology Society, the Association for Research in Otolaryngology and the New England Facial Plastic Surgery Society. He is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Otolaryngology.

In addition, Dr. Cheney is a founder and a current board member of the Medical Missions for Children Foundation. Through this foundation, he participates in surgical missions to provide pediatric head and neck reconstruction in Quito, Ecuador.

Dr. Cheney is a graduate of the University of Mississippi Medical School and completed residency training at Tulane University Charity Hospital of New Orleans. He currently sits on the editorial boards of a number of academic journals, including the Archives of Facial and Plastic Surgery, and is an author of three published books: “Illustrated Atlas of Cutaneous Surgery”, “Atlas of Free Flaps for Head and Neck Reconstruction” and “Facial Surgery: Plastic and Reconstructive.” He is also the author of numerous scholarly articles.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Elects Kenneth J. Conway as Trustee
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Boston (June 16, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has elected Kenneth J. Conway, a resident of Scituate, Mass., as Trustee, Member of the Corporation for the Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Conway has 35 years of experience in clinical diagnostics and pharmaceuticals, which includes time with Corning, Inc., as well as with Chiron Diagnostics, where he served as president of the U.S. Immuno group as a member of the Office of the President. In addition, Conway was responsible for strategic development operations and commercialization at Chiron prior to its acquisition by Bayer Healthcare. Conway is the founder of Millennium Predictive Medicine and Vitivity, Inc., whose focus is in the arena of predictive medicine.

 


Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Samuel C. Fleming as Trustee
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Boston (June 16, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has appointed Samuel C. Fleming, a resident of Weston, Mass., as Trustee, Member of the Corporation for the Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Fleming is managing director of Briland LLC, which specializes in healthcare investments. He is chairman emeritus of Decision Resources, Inc., a leading provider of strategic information to the global biopharmaceutical, medical device, and healthcare insurance industries. Earlier he was a senior vice president and member of the management group of Arthur D. Little, as well as president of Arthur D. Little Decision Resources, which he founded.

Fleming previously served as chairman of the Board of the New England Baptist Hospital and currently serves as a member of the Board of CareGroup, Inc. He is vice chairman of the Board of Cornell University and a director of Commonwealth Fund, a leading healthcare foundation, and Picker Institute which focuses on improving healthcare quality from the patient’s perspective.

He received a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Elects Paul George as Trustee
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Boston (June 16, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has elected Paul George, a resident of Wellesley, Mass., as Trustee, Member of the Corporation for the Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

An attorney at Kellogg & George, Paul George has served as a director of Decision Resources, a multinational research, publishing and consulting company for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and healthcare industries, as well as the chairman of its international subsidiary, Decision Resources International, Inc. George has also held positions as a director of King Communications, Inc., a Corporator of Cambridgeport Bank, and Vice President and Vice Chairman of the United States Olympic Committee. George is a graduate of Harvard College and Boston University School of Law.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Elects David P. Marotta as Trustee
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Boston (June 16, 2006) —The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has elected David P. Marotta, a resident of Winchester, Mass., as Trustee, Member of the Corporation for the Foundation of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Marotta has served as Controller, General Manager, and is currently president of Rogers Foam Corporation, a privately owned manufacturer of fabricated foam products, which operates five U.S. plants, as well as plants in Mexico, Ireland and Singapore. In addition, he is a director at Ashworth International, a manufacturer of conveyor belts, located in Fall River, Mass. Marotta received a bachelor’s degree from Harvard College and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard Business School.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Alex Grilli as Otolaryngologist
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Boston (June 1, 2006) —The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has appointed Alex Grilli, M.D., as an Otolaryngologist at MEEI’S South Suburban Center for Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery. As an otolaryngologist, Dr. Grilli diagnoses and treats diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. Dr. Grilli received a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a medical degree from Tufts University School of Medicine.

Prior to joining MEEI, Dr. Grilli was employed by Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates. He is currently an assistant surgeon at MEEI, and an instructor in otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School. He is certified by the American Board of Otolaryngology in Head and Neck Surgery, and is a member of the American Medical Association and the Massachusetts Society of Otolaryngology.

 

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Lisa M. Bove as Clinical Laboratory Director
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Boston (May 12, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has appointed Lisa Bove, a resident of Medford, Mass., as Clinical Laboratory Director. Bove will oversee the operations of MEEI’s Coolidge Clinical Laboratory, which provides testing to service 24 hours per day, seven days per week to service inpatient and outpatient needs.

Bove has professional experience both as a medical technologist and as a laboratory manager. Prior to joining MEEI, Bove’s experience has included several positions at the Cambridge Health Alliance’s Whidden Hospital in Everett, Mass., such as Laboratory Manager and Chemistry Supervisor. She is certified by a number of professional organizations, including the Clinical Laboratory Management Association and the American Society of Clinical Pathologists. She holds a master’s degree in Health Professions, with concentrations in health policy and administration, as well as a graduate certificate in pharmacogenetics.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Presents Victoria McCloskey with the Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing Clinical Practice Award
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Boston (May 16, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary presented Victoria McCloskey R.N., a resident of Hyde Park, Mass., with the Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing and Clinical Practice Award. The Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing and Clinical Practice Award acknowledges achievements of nurses who demonstrate a long-term commitment to the provision of excellent care at MEEI.

Ms. McCloskey has been a nurse in MEEI’s Operating Room for almost seven years. She contributes many ideas and suggestions to the department and she is currently working on a degree in a BSN program. “Victoria works to ensure that all of her patients are safe and receive the best possible care,” said Executive Vice President of Patient Services Carol Covell.

Norman Knight has supported MEEI for many years. Among his contributions is the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center, the only hospital-based center in the Boston area that provides hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Presents Maureen Callahan with the Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing Clinical Practice Award
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Boston (May 16, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary presented Maureen Callahan, R.N., a resident of Arlington, Mass., with the Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing and Clinical Practice Award. The Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing and Clinical Practice Award acknowledges achievements of nurses who demonstrate a long-term commitment to the provision of excellent care at MEEI.

Ms. Callahan has been a nurse at MEEI for 20 years. She has worked in several different departments in the hospital. “Her team spirit and skill allow her to adapt to different units every day. Maureen’s ability to switch gears, sometimes at a moments notice, is her greatest attribute,” said Executive Vice President for Patient Services Carol Covell.

Norman Knight has supported MEEI for many years. Among his contributions is the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center, the only hospital-based center in the Boston area that provides hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Presents Jean Linke With the Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing Clinical Practice Award
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Boston (May 16, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary presented Jean Linke, R.N., a resident of Natick, Mass., with the Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing and Clinical Practice Award. The Norman Knight Excellence in Nursing and Clinical Practice Award acknowledges achievements of nurses who demonstrate a long-term commitment to the provision of excellent care for MEEI.

Ms. Linke has been a clinical research nurse at MEEI for almost 24 years. She is extremely involved with the Department of Education and was the first person to complete the Preceptor Program at MEEI. “Jean has team spirit and works to enforce the mission of the Department of Nursing to her colleagues in the Operating Room,” said Executive Vice President for Patient Services Carol Covell.

Norman Knight has supported MEEI for many years. Among his contributions is the Norman Knight Hyperbaric Medicine Center, the only hospital-based center in the Boston area that provides hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

 

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Observes Healthy Vision Month in May
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Boston (May 4, 2006) — The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary  is observing Healthy Vision Month in May, sponsored by the National Eye Institute (NEI), along with the National Institute of Safety and Health. Statistics from the NEI indicate that more than 2,000 U.S. workers receive medical treatment because of work-related eye injuries, with more than 800,000 eye injuries occurring annually.

According to the NEI, many eye injuries occur because people are not wearing the right eye protection, it does not fit, or they are not wearing any protection at all. Flying fragments of metal, wood, concrete and other building materials, along with windblown dust and debris, splashes from chemicals and molten metal, hot sparks, optical radiation, and even the everyday nail, are common workplace eye hazards.

Construction activities account for a large percentage of eye injuries. Many of these injuries are preventable by use of appropriate eye safety protection. Everyone engaged in construction activities, either at home or on the job, should wear appropriate eye protection at all times. In addition, sports activities, such as basketball and golf, also account for a large number of eye injuries every year and therefore, protective eyewear during such activity is encouraged.

“Not only workers, but people engaging in sports, or activities at home, such as mowing the lawn, must wear appropriate eye protection to prevent against eye trauma, which can lead to serious vision loss or blindness,” says Matthew Gardiner, M.D., MEEI Director of Ophthalmology Emergency Services. In addition to protecting against eye trauma, Dr. Gardiner recommends regular eye exams as a proactive way to maintain healthy vision.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Alec Cheloff as Chief Information Officer
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April 11, 2006 (Boston)—The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary has appointed Alec Cheloff, a resident of Lynnfield, Mass., as Chief Information Officer. The announcement was made by F. Curtis Smith, President of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

With more than 25 years of information technology experience, Cheloff’s expertise includes strategic and tactical planning, deployment of large-scale projects and management of hospital-based systems. Prior to joining MEEI, he held the position of Corporate Manager at Partners Healthcare System, Inc. Cheloff previously served as Chief Information Officer for Fallon Healthcare System, a multi-specialty group practice and health plan in central Massachusetts.

Cheloff received a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, where he was Phi Beta Kappa and a master’s degree in economic policy and planning from Northeastern University.

“I’m excited to welcome Mr. Cheloff to the position of Chief Information Officer. His expertise in the healthcare field, as well as in information technology, will provide a valuable asset to MEEI,” said Smith.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Physicians Find Examination of Larynx Essential in Management of Thyroid Cancer
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Boston (March 27) - Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Department of Otolaryngology physician Greg Randolph, M.D., FACS, in collaboration with MEEI research fellow Dipti Kamani, M.D., have found that examination of the larynx (voice box) is essential in the management of thyroid cancer. The results of this study are published in the March issue of the journal Surgery.

The study compared a group of 21 patients with invasive thyroid malignancy that was selected from a group of 365 patients undergoing thyroidectomy and compared it to a larger group of 344 patients who had benign thyroid disease or non-invasive cancer.

In the group with invasive thyroid malignancy, the authors found that recurrent laryngeal nerve paralysis was a significant marker for this condition, occurring in 70 percent of patients with invasive disease and in only .3 percent of patients with non-invasive disease. Of these patients, voice change was associated with vocal cord paralysis in only one third and preoperative CT read positive for paralysis in only 25 percent. As voice assessment and radiographic evaluation are insufficient, the authors recommend laryngoscopic exam for patients undergoing thyroid surgery to detect the extent of the disease, allow for appropriate surgical planning and patient counseling, as well as accurate management of the recurrent laryngeal nerve during surgery. Damage to the recurrent laryngeal nerve during surgery can result in temporary or permanent voice problems, in addition to impacting swallowing and breathing. Monitoring this nerve during surgery can decrease the risk of these problems.

According to the study's lead author, Dr. Greg Randolph, "The examination of the larynx is an essential component of the preoperative assessment of a patient undergoing thyroid surgery. The presence of vocal cord paralysis is highly related to invasive thyroid cancer."

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Jim Cappellucci as the Manager of Research Finance
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Boston (March 27, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary appointed Jim Cappellucci, a resident of Plymouth, Mass., as the Manager of Research Finance.

The Research Finance Team is in charge of the stewardship, accounting and reporting of the research funds at MEEI. Mr. Cappellucci attended Bentley College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy and a minor in communications.

 

Sick Eyes May Occur in Sick Bodies Related to Smoking, Obesity and Other Unhealthy Behaviors
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Boston ( March 21, 2006) - People who have elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine (HCY) and high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in their blood, both of which are systemic markers of cardiovascular disease and inflammation, may be at an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), while those who engage in healthy behaviors, such as not smoking and eating a diet rich in certain vitamins and fish oils, may decrease their risk of developing this blinding disease, according to a study that is available online now in the journal Nutrition (to be printed in the April issue).

Lead author Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., director of Epidemiology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, and her colleagues previously reported that systemic markers of inflammation, including serum levels of high sensitivity C-reactive protein, are associated with both prevalent and incident AMD (JAMA 2004, Arch Ophthalmol 2005). They also found an association between plasma homocysteine and AMD (Am J Ophthalmol 2006). A decade ago they reported the increased risk of AMD with cigarette smoking (JAMA 1996), and the decreased risk of this disease related to dietary intake of carotenoids and foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin (JAMA 1994). They also found in several of their study cohorts that fish intake appears beneficial and reduces risk of AMD (Arch Ophthalmol 2001, 2003, 2006, in press), and high body mass index or obesity is also a risk factor (Arch Ophthalmol 2003).

In the most recent article in the journal Nutrition, Seddon and collaborators refine and expand upon their earlier findings and show that these risk and preventive factors for AMD are related to both the inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein (CRP), as well as the cardiovascular biomarker, homocysteine (HCY). These results shed light on the mechanisms whereby certain behaviors, such as smoking, are harmful, and others, including eating carotenoid-rich foods, as well as fish, are beneficial.

They found that higher levels of serum antioxidants vitamin C and lutein/zeaxanthain and higher fish intake were associated with lower serum CRP levels, whereas serum vitamin E, smoking and increased body mass index were associated with increased CRP. Serum vitamin E and dietary intake of antioxidants and vitamin B6 were associated with lower levels of plasma HCY, whereas hypertension was associated with increased HCY. They concluded that C-reactive protein and HCY levels are related to traditional dietary and behavioral factors associated with AMD.

AMD is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness among persons aged 60 and older. With the elderly population steadily growing, the burden related to this loss of visual function will increase. Limited treatment options exist and prevention remains the best approach for addressing this public health concern.

Nine hundred and thirty four individuals of the 1,026 who were participating in an ancillary study of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) at two clinical centers, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Boston, Mass.) and Devers Eye Institute (Portland, Ore.), underwent questionnaires, measurements and photographs of the macula and had blood specimens drawn in 1996-1997 after AREDS randomization for this study to assess biomarkers. Dietary, behavioral and medical risk and protective factors for the entire group were evaluated for their association with blood values of CRP and HCY. In addition, serum nutrient values obtained from the Devers Eye Institute were evaluated for their association with CRP and HCY. The results were adjusted for age, gender and AREDS treatment.

“AMD is associated with immune, inflammatory and other cardiovascular mechanisms, and these results emphasize the need to adhere to healthy lifestyles for your eyes and your body overall,” Dr. Seddon advised.

This research was funded by grants from the National Institute of Health, the National Eye Institute, Bethesda, MD; the Epidemiology Unit Research Fund of the MEEI, Boston; the Good Samaritan Foundation, Portland, Ore; and Research to Prevent Blindness, New York, NY.

 

Diane E. Kaneb Elected Chairman of the Foundation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
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Boston (March 21, 2006) – Diane E. Kaneb was recently elected chairman of the Foundation and the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The announcement was made by F. Curtis Smith, MEEI president.

A resident of Weston, Mass., Kaneb graduated with honor from Smith College with a bachelor’s degree in economics and from Babson College’s Management for Women Program. Her professional experience includes being an IBM System Service Representative. Her volunteer experience, which is extensive, includes various positions within the Weston public schools; chair of the Board of Hospice at Home; member of the Board of Directors of Pope John XXIII; member of the Advisory Council of the Julie’s Family Learning Center; vice chair of the Board of Bridge Over Troubled Waters; and member of the Board and Development Chair of Partners in Health.

An MEEI Trustee since 1986, Mrs. Kaneb was elected to the Board in 1989, served as secretary of the Board from 1992 to 2002, and was co-vice-chairman of the Board from 2002 until now. In addition to her officer roles, she has been chair of the Credentialing and Nominating Committees and serves on the Executive, Business Development, Community Benefits, Compensation, Campaign Steering, Planning and Development committees.

“Diane has served the Infirmary for nearly 20 years,” said Smith. “Her dedication to her work here has been invaluable. We are pleased that she is at the helm as chairman.”

Smith expressed his appreciation to George J. Rabstejnek of Cohasset, former chairman. “I would like to extend my gratitude to George for his leadership, friendship and guidance over the years. We have made great strides and accomplished much in support of our mission during his tenure. I look forward to his continuing participation as chairman emeritus.”

 

David W. Scudder Elected a Vice-Chairman of the Foundation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
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Boston (March 21, 2006) – David W. Scudder was recently elected a vice-chairman of the Foundation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The announcement was made by F. Curtis Smith, MEEI president.

A resident of Ipswich, Mass., Scudder is chairman of Aureus Asset Management, LLC, an investment management firm in Boston. Prior to forming Aureus Asset Management with three other partners, he was associated from 1999 through mid-2005 with Harvard Management Co., as vice president of trusts. From 1968 to 98, he was a partner of the Wellington Management Co., LLP, in Boston.

Scudder serves on the boards of the following: the New England Conservatory, where he was chairman for 11 years and is now chairman of the capital campaign; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; the Boston Lyric Opera; and the St. Mark’s School.

An MEEI Trustee since 1995, Scudder became a member of the Board of Directors in 1998. He serves on the Investment Committee.

 

Mary Kearney Elected Secretary of the Foundation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
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Boston (March 21, 2006) – Mary Kearney of Boston and West Hyannisport, Mass., was elected secretary of the Foundation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The announcement was made by F. Curtis Smith, MEEI president.

A director at Deloitte Consulting LLP, Kearney was a co-founder of Laurel Advisors LLC, a new wealth management and family advisory services firm. Prior to Laurel, Kearney was a senior executive at Fidelity Investments and Putnam Investments, and earlier worked in strategy consulting to financial services firms at Price Waterhouse and McKinsey & Company. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School and Emmanuel College.

An MEEI trustee since 1995, Kearney became a member of the Board of Directors in 1996. She is chair of the hospital’s donor recognition group, the Reynolds Society, and serves on the planning committee.

 

Shaun Levesque Elected as Vice-Chairman of the Foundation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
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Boston (March 21, 2006) – Shaun Levesque was recently elected vice-chairman of the Foundation and Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. The announcement was made by F. Curtis Smith, MEEI president.

A resident of Wrentham and Rockport, Mass., Levesque is founder and managing partner of Twin Lights Capital, LLC, a Boston-based hedge fund. Prior to that, he was executive vice president of CDC IXIS Asset Management, where he was on the senior management committee. He received his bachelor’s degree from Washington and Lee University, his master in arts from Stanford University, and his master in business administration from Northeastern University. He is also a director of the Trinity Foundation in Thompson, Conn.

An MEEI Trustee since 2002, Levesque became a member of the Board of Directors in 2005. He is co-chairman of the Campaign Steering Committee and serves on the Planning Committee.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Michael B. Rho, M.D., as Otolaryngologist
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Boston (March 6, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) recently appointed Michael B. Rho, M.D., a resident of Boston, Mass., as Staff Otolaryngologist.

Dr. Rho received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD and his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY. He completed his residency in otolaryngology in the Harvard Combined Residency Program in Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery, specializing in sinus surgery and allergy, voice disorders and laryngology, surgery of the ear, pediatric ear, nose, throat and thyroid surgery at MEEI.

Dr. Rho is a recipient of the Resident Research Presentation Award on the topics of biology, prevention and treatment of head and neck cancer. He is also a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society for being in the top 15 percent in his medical school class.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Laura Mercure, a resident of Dorchester, Mass., as Administrative Assistant to Research Administration
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Boston (March 15, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary recently appointed Laura Mercure, a resident of Dorchester, Mass., as Administrative Assistant of research administration.

In her position, she schedules appointments, creates correspondence and presentations, and is the primary contact between research administration and external departments and vendors. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Pace University in Pleasantville, NY.

Ms. Mercure is an active member of the American Advertising Federation and she graduated with distinction from Pace University.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Adrian James Priesol, M.D., FRCPC, as a Consultant in Otoneurology
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Boston (March 2, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary recently appointed Adrian James Priesol, M.D., FRCPC, a resident of Boston, Mass., as a Consultant in Otoneurology.

Dr. Priesol’s clinical interest is in dizziness and balance disorders. He received his medical degree and completed his residency in adult neurology at the University of Toronto. He also completed a research fellowship in neuro-ophthalmology at the University of Toronto.

Dr. Priesol has won several awards, including the Clinician-Scientist Award from the department of medicine, as well as the Elizabeth Barford Fellowship in Neuroscience Research, both from the University of Toronto.

 

Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Appoints Stacey Tutt Gray, M.D., as Otolaryngologist
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Boston (March 2, 2006) – The Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary recently appointed Stacey Tutt Gray, M.D., a resident of Arlington, Mass., as a new Otolaryngologist.

Dr. Gray’s clinical interest is rhinology, which is the treatment of disorders of the nose and sinuses. She received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Miami, a medical degree from Georgetown University School of Medicine, completed her residency in otolaryngology at Harvard, and a fellowship in rhinology and sinus surgery at MEEI.

Dr. Gray has received many awards, including the Cabot Award in General Surgery and Otolaryngology and the Harvard Otolaryngology Chief Resident Teaching Award.

 

Daniel J. Townsend, M.D., Appointed as President of Ophthalmology Staff at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
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Boston (Jan. 26, 2006) — Daniel J. Townsend, M.D., a resident of Boston, Mass., was recently appointed as President of the Ophthalmology Staff of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

An Instructor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Townsend is a member of the Board of Surgeons in Ophthalmology at MEEI as well as an Oculoplastic Consultant in MEEI’s Facial Nerve Clinic. He formerly held the position of Co-Director of the MEEI Oculoplastics Service.

In addition to authoring and co-authoring medical textbooks and numerous articles in various academic journals, Dr. Townsend is a member of several associations, including the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the New England Ophthalmological Society, and the American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. He has been awarded the senior achievement award by the AAO for his two decades of teaching contributions to the Academy, along with a distinguished service award from MEEI.

Dr. Townsend’s major research interests are related to involuntary facial movement disorders, orbital trauma, eyelid reanimation following facial paralysis, and emerging facial cosmetic surgery techniques.

 

Loss of Elastic Fibers Leads to Incontinence and Other Pelvic Floor Disorders
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Boston (Jan. 25, 2006) – It is estimated that up to half of U.S. women suffer from some level of female pelvic floor disorders (FPFD), a group of conditions that includes pelvic organ prolapse, urinary incontinence, and other sensory and emptying abnormalities of the lower urinary tract. Risk factors include vaginal childbirth and aging, yet little is known about the underlying molecular mechanism that causes the weakening of the pelvic support structures.

Scientists at the Berman-Gund Laboratory at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Harvard Medical School (HMS) are a step closer to understanding the cause of FPFD. In a study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Pathology, the researchers found a failure to replenish elastic fibers in mice causes pelvic floor disorders like those found in humans.

Elastic fibers confer resilience to the skin and many other connective tissues. Not surprisingly, the female reproductive organs and pelvic floor are rich in elastic fibers. These tissues undergo massive change during pregnancy and childbirth. The problem occurs when elastic fibers are not properly replenished and the tissues fail to return to their natural shape. According to Tiansen Li, Ph.D., HMS associate professor of ophthalmology, a principal investigator at the Berman-Gund Laboratory at MEEI, and senior author of the paper, mice with a defective lysyl oxides-like-1 protein (LOXL1), which they have already shown to be critical for elastic fiber maintenance, replicate major clinical manifestations of human FPFD. LOXL1 is essential for remodeling elastic fibers and keeping tissues in their place. His team used a mouse model in which they “knocked out” the LOXL1 gene.

“In this study, we showed that mutant mice lacking LOXL1 develop complex and severe pelvic floor disorders,” Li said. “The important question now is whether loss of elastic fibers, either because of age and/or genetic predisposition, underlies the etiology of common pelvic floor disorders among older women.”

Future directions that arise from the current study are to demonstrate, by way of clinical studies, that an elastic fiber defect underlies the pathophysiology of human FPFD and to develop therapeutic strategies aimed at enhancing the elastic fiber system in the pelvic tissues. Conceivably, supplementing LOXL1 by protein or gene therapy could potentially be developed into a valid therapeutic approach for women at high risk for FPFD.

 

High Levels of Amino Acid may be Biomarker for Increased Age-related Macular Degeneration Risk - Study published in the January issue of American Journal of Ophthalmology
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Boston (Jan. 3, 2006) – People who have elevated homocysteine in their blood, an amino acid which is a known biomarker for cardiovascular disease, may also be at an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, according to a study in the January issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

In this largest study of the relationship of this amino acid and AMD, researchers measured the fasting plasma homocysteine levels of 934 individuals who were participating in an ancillary study of the Age-Related Eye Disease Study. Five hundred and forty seven people with AMD and 387 control subjects were tested at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (Boston, Mass.) and Devers Eye Institute (Portland, Ore.)

“We found that elevated homocysteine in the blood may be another biomarker for increased risk of AMD,” said lead author Johanna M. Seddon, M.D., director of Epidemiology at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary who is also an associate professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and at the Harvard School of Public Health. “Homocysteine can be reduced by dietary intake of vitamins B6, B12 and folate, so the relationship between this amino acid and AMD deserves further study.”

Researchers found that median values were higher among people with advanced stages of AMD compared to people without AMD, controlling for age and other factors. Levels considered high in the clinical setting (above 12 mmol/l) were also associated with a higher risk of AMD. Dr. Seddon's finding adds to the growing body of evidence that there may be overlapping disease mechanisms between AMD and cardiovascular diseases.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible visual impairment and blindness among persons aged 60 and older. With the elderly population steadily growing, the burden related to this loss of visual function will increase. Limited treatment options exist and prevention remains the best approach for addressing this public health concern.

Dr. Seddon and her colleagues first proposed this potential relationship between homocysteine and AMD in the mid-1990s and published this hypothesis in a review article in 1999. She and her team previously established that smoking and nutrition are modifiable factors associated with the development and progression of AMD. They are now also searching for the genes involved in the etiology of this increasing cause of blindness.

This research was funded by grants from the National Institute of Health, the National Eye Institute, Bethesda, MD; the Epidemiology Unit Research Fund of the MEEI, Boston, and the Good Samaritan Foundation, Portland, Ore.