UVEITIS Research at UCSF

Left to right: Drs. Acharya, Doan, and Gonzales

Proctor Foundation has always championed research to directly improve patient care and eradicate eye diseases. Uveitis remains a source of unknown causes and imperfect solutions.

UCSF’s uveitis specialists partner with leading eye hospitals in several countries to conduct research. A strong partnership in uveitis research and patient care blossomed in South India from a Proctor visit to Aravind Eye Hospital in 1992. Sivakumar R. Rathinam, PhD, head of Uveitis Service at the hospital, remembers one impact: “We learned from Dr. Robert Nozik that clinical signs are often more important than expensive lab tests. That gave us more confidence to manage our uveitis patients, many of whom are uninsured.”

Nisha Acharya, MD, MS, directs Proctor’s Uveitis Service. For 10 years, she has been designing and leading studies to understand risk factors for uveitis and clinical trials to determine optimal treatments. There are currently no US-approved treatments for uveitis except corticosteroids.

Based on a pilot study that Dr. Acharya led, the National Institutes of Health now funds a multicenter uveitis trial for patients in five countries – also led by Dr. Acharya – comparing two corticosteroid- sparing antimetabolites for first-line treatment. Dr. Acharya also serves as protocol chair for a National Institutes of Health multisite trial comparing treatments for macular edema, a leading cause of vision loss in patients with uveitis.

Thuy Doan, MD, PhD, uses comprehensive gene sequencing to evaluate fluid samples from the eyes of patients with unknown causes of uveitis. Gene sequencing is more sensitive than currently available diagnostic tests, allowing her to profile greater microbial diversity in biological samples. Working in the lab of UCSF biochemist Joe DeRisi, PhD, Dr. Doan expects to identify viruses and other causes of uveitis undetectable with conventional tools.

John Gonzales, MD, is focused on developing genetic profiles of different types of uveitis causes, with the aim of one day offering simple blood tests designed to diagnose them. Currently he is working on understanding the genetic profile of sarcoidosis, which can be life threatening if it reaches the lungs.This condition frequently involves the eyes, which can lead to blindness if left untreated.

Private funding for uveitis is provided by the Huang Pacific Foundation, Alta California Eye Research Foundation, Harper- Inglis Memorial Fund for Eye Research, Peierls Foundation, and Ivan, Maris, and Harry Meyerson. The National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization sustain the work.