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Kathryn A. Colby, M.D., Ph.D.

Harvard Medical School

Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, Department of Ophthalmology
Director, Ocular Oncology Center of Excellence

Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Director, Health Care Contracting and Payor Policies
Senior Scientist



Center Affiliations

Research Summary

Dr. Colby is a corneal surgeon with expertise in management of complex diseases of the anterior segment of the eye, with special emphasis on life-threatening neoplastic diseases of the ocular surface, pediatric corneal diseases and keratoprosthesis surgery in patients for whom a standard corneal transplant would be ineffective. She has initiated laboratory and clinical studies of corneal diseases, including Fuchs' corneal dystrophy and conjunctival melanoma. She played a key role in the implantable miniature telescope, the only vision rehabilitative surgery available to patients blind from macular degeneration.


A Multi-Center Study to Map Novel Genes for Fuchs’ Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy: This study, sponsored by the National Eye Institute, is attempting to determine what genes are involved in Fuchs’ dystrophy by examining DNA from families with Fuchs’ dystrophy.

Mitochondria in Fuchs’ Dystrophy: This project, which has been active since 1998, investigates the causes of Fuchs’ corneal dystrophy, a progressive dysfunction of the inner lining cells of the cornea (the corneal endothelium) that results in swelling of the cornea, reduced vision and eventually painful blindness. Despite the fact that this condition was described almost 100 years ago, we still do not know its cause. In our ongoing research into this condition, we have shown that the mitochondria (the energy-producing “powerhouses” of all cells) have abnormal appearance in Fuchs’ dystrophy. In collaboration with Dr. Nancy Joyce, an endothelial cell biologist, we have shown that it is possible to grow endothelial cells from Fuchs’ dystrophy corneas removed during corneal transplantation in the laboratory, this creating a model system to better study this condition. We have also examined the changes in cellular proteins in Fuchs’ dystrophy and this work has spawned the further research of Dr. Jurkunas. Most recently, we are investigating what role aquaporins (“plumbing” proteins that regulate the flow of water into cells) might play in Fuchs’ dystrophy.

Photo of Kathryn A. Colby, M.D., Ph.D.

Kathryn A. Colby, M.D., Ph.D.


Mass. Eye and Ear

243 Charles Street

Boston, MA 02114

T: 617-573-5537

F: 617-573-4300


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