Meet a Specialist: Joseph Ciolino, M.D.

Dr. Joseph Ciolino decided to specialize in corneal disease because, he says, “There is almost always a treatment or therapy I can offer to my patients that will cure or make their disease more manageable, which is very gratifying.”

Joseph Ciolino, M.D.As a cornea specialist, Dr. Ciolino treats front-of-the-eye diseases, with a focus on cataracts, corneal transplants, and keratoprosthesis (an artificial prosthesis that replaces a severely damaged cornea). Like his Mass. Eye and Ear colleagues, Dr. Ciolino often treats patients with the most difficult and complex pathologies, many of whom require treatment by a physician with concentrated expertise. “Treating difficult cases is routine here at Mass. Eye and Ear,” he says. “So more often than not, we have the ability to diagnose and develop a treatment plan that gives patients the best outcome while minimizing risks.”

Unlike a generation ago, patients today have far greater access to information and want to be a part of the decision-making process, which Dr. Ciolino welcomes. “I find that educated patients are typically more engaged and motivated in their care. So I do everything in my power to make them part of the conversation and to make sure they understand their disease, the diagnosis and the treatment plan. My patients inspire me and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

 Watch Dr. Joseph Ciolino interviewed by Lisa Hughes on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) in a segment called “Local Future of Boston: Leading the Way in Biotech Research.”

At the center of Dr. Ciolino’s practice philosophy is patient empowerment. He explains that even the most basic measures, such as giving every patient a printed copy of instructions at the end of each appointment can make a big difference in patient compliance. “This is a simple but effective way to ensure that patients and caregivers understand the steps of treatment going forward, including use of the most advanced techniques.”

Dr. Ciolino is very familiar with medical and scientific innovation. For the past five years, he has played a pivotal role in developing a drug-eluting contact lens that may one day replace eye drops, which are inefficient and often difficult for people to administer. The lens may also improve surgical outcomes in patients by protecting the ocular surface of the eye and preventing post-operative infections.

Inspired by these and other potential therapeutic applications, Dr. Ciolino continues to develop the drug-eluting contact lens with colleagues from Mass. Eye and Ear, including his former mentor Claes Dohlman, MD, PhD (inventor of the Boston Keratoprosthesis or Boston KPro), as well as Daniel Kohane, MD, PhD (Boston Children’s Hospital and MIT), and Robert Langer, ScD (David H. Koch Institute Professor at MIT). In recent studies, researchers have shown that the drug-eluting lens is capable of delivering latanoprost, a common drug used for the treatment of glaucoma, for up to one month. Interest in this state-of-the-art lens has quickly spread around the globe, and updates on Dr. Ciolino’s work can be found through HealthDay News, Daily Mail (UK), Post (India), YAHOO! News (India, and UK & Ireland), R&D Magazine, EurekAlert!, Nanowerk News, and others. Descriptions of earlier versions of this lens can also be found in Scientific American, Reuters News Service,, and other media outlets. 

Since 2003, Dr. Ciolino had also led studies to improve implantation of the Boston KPro so it can be used in more patients and with better results. Dr. Ciolino and his team have collected compelling data about a promising new technique called collagen cross-linking, which strengthens the ocular tissue around the KPro device and helps maintain the prosthesis better. With these data in hand, the next step is to apply for FDA approval to begin clinical studies in patients.

Turning scientific discoveries into viable treatments for his patients is one aspect of Dr. Ciolino’s work that not only brings him tremendous satisfaction, but makes him a better doctor. “My research brings invaluable insight to my understanding of corneal disease and allows me to treat my patients more effectively,” he says.

Contact Dr. Ciolino’s office at 617-573-4331.

View Dr. Ciolino’s online bio for more information.

Request an appointment.