Using Bioinformatics To Better Understand Eye Diseases

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary field that develops methods and software tools for understanding biological data. It combines imaging, computer science, statistics, mathematics, and engineering to analyze and interpret information. The primary goal of bioinformatics is to increase the understanding of biological processes. This unique approach allows physicians and researcher to focus on developing and applying computationally intensive techniques to ultimately achieve the goal of improving patient outcomes through data analysis. Examples of this groundbreaking data include: pattern recognition, data mining, machine learning algorithms, and visualization.

Almost 10 years ago I was tasked with building our electronic records system. I knew little about the system I was about to inherit but I understood the power of good data collection. We created the ability to search and collate patient data with a few clicks of the mouse. Before EMRs were implemented at Cole Eye Institute, compiling data for clinical studies and making assessments of drug and surgical outcomes could take weeks or months. Now, this process can now be performed in a matter of minutes.

We established the CEI Center For Ophthalmic Bioinformatics (COB) is addressing the leading causes of blindness, which l include age related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease, retinal vein occlusions, glaucoma, and uveitis. These disorders are among the highest cause of blindness and unfortunately none have a definitive treatment option for patients. Understanding presentations of these ophthalmic diseases, their risk factors, their prognosis for progression, and their optimal response to treatment through bioinformatics processes in an important step at improving the lives of our patients

And through this process we have mentored research fellows and medical students performing some pretty amazing research projects, winning national awards, presenting their research at major eye meetings, and publishing the data in peer-reviewed journals. At our recent get together we congratulated the research fellows and medical students finishing up and welcomed the newbies to our lab. I’m excited to see their contributions to our field in the near future and I was glad to be part of their path in becoming future clinician scientists.


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