Lucia Sobrin, M.D., MPH
Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Department of Ophthalmology
Director, Morse Laser Center
Co-Director, Ocular Immunology and Uveitis Fellowship
Department of Ophthalmology Scholar
Dr. Sobrin has a clinical focus on retinal diseases and posterior uveitis and a research focus on identifying genes associated with polygenic ophthalmic diseases, particularly diabetic retinopathy.She led a candidate gene association study of diabetic retinopathy within the Candidate gene Association Resource (CARe), which included patients from several large population-based cohorts. Currently, she is the principal investigator on an admixture genetic association study for diabetic retinopathy in African Americans and a multi-ethnic genome-wide association study of diabetic retinopathy.
Dr. Sobrin is the principal investigator for an investigation of the genetics of diabetic retinopathy in African Americans entitled “Epidemiology and Genetics of Diabetic Retinopathy in the Jackson Heart Study.” Epidemiology and Genetics of Diabetic Retinopathy in the Jackson Heart Study Diabetic retinopathy is a common, blinding complication of diabetes. It has been suspected for some time that compared with other racial groups, African Americans develop diabetic retinopathy more often and tend to have faster progression of the disease. The reasons for this have not been explained. It is not solely due to the degree of blood sugar control. In other racial groups, it has been shown that the risk of developing retinopathy is partially inherited through genes passed on from one generation to the next. It is believed that this is also true for African Americans and that they may carry certain genes that increase their risk of developing retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy in African Americans has not been thoroughly studied. The Mass. Eye and Ear has established a collaboration with the Jackson Heart Study and the University of Mississippi Medical Center to be able to study diabetic retinopathy in African Americans in a comprehensive way. The Jackson Heart Study is an ongoing study of heart disease in African Americans who live in the greater Jackson, Mississippi area. These participants have a thorough examination every three years as part of the study to help determine the risk factors for heart disease and its complications. About 2000 of the participants in the study are diabetic or “pre-diabetic.” Retinal photographs of participants who are diabetic or “pre-diabetic” will be taken. We will then be able to determine what risk factors, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, contribute to the development of retinopathy. Many of the patients in the Jackson Heart Study will undergo detailed mapping of their genes and this information will be used to find genes associated with retinopathy. Identification of genetic and clinical risk factors will enable better counseling of African Americans about their chance of developing retinopathy and generate more targeted monitoring and therapeutic strategies. If genes associated with retinopathy are found, they may provide information for developing new treatments for diabetic retinopathy.