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Research

The Mass. Eye and Ear Neuro-Ophthalmology Service performs both clinical and “translational” research. Of particular note, Dr. Rizzo is the founder of the Boston Retinal Implant Project, a consortium that is developing an "artificial retina" that could restore vision to patients with certain diseases of the retina.

Clinical Research. Most of our clinical research focuses on the diagnosis of blinding conditions due to retinal or optic nerve damage. In particular, we aim to improve the diagnostic accuracy of disorders of the optic nerve, especially optic neuritis and ischemic optic neuropathy. We also maintain a broad interest in other disorders that involve the brain. This includes a long-standing interest in the diagnosis and management of patients with giant cell arteritis and idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and visual disorders that affect circadian rhythms.

Translational Research. Our translational research program is organized around the novel concept of “Therapeutic Neuro-Ophthalmology." Our translational program has two related types of activities:

  • New treatment development, which helps restore vision to patients who are blind from retinal or optic nerve diseases
  • Investigative research, which helps improve the understanding or treatment of blinding diseases; our patients motivate us to conduct these research studies so we can better service them 

The Boston Retinal Implant Project (BRIP), a multidisciplinary collaboration between Mass. Eye and Ear and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was founded by Dr. Rizzo in the late 1980s. Since 2001, the Veterans Administration joined as an integral member of the consortium, which now includes 36 team members who are distributed at eight academic institutions and one local technology company.

Our team includes biologists (retinal surgeons, retinal physiologists, cortical physiologists), engineers (electrical engineers, microfabrication specialists, metallurgists, polymer chemists and other material scientists), and clinicians.

The BRIP has been dedicated to developing a retinal prosthesis to restore vision to patients who have either retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration. Our team has recently completed the development of a wireless, implantable retinal prosthesis that is being used to obtain “pre-clinical” information for the FDA. Our short-term goal is to upgrade our device for human use, and hopefully to perform FDA-approved clinical trials with our device in the near future.

To learn more, please visit the Boston Retinal Implant Project website.