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Jan. 21, 2015

András Komáromy: Double visions

Jan. 21, 2015

András Komáromy is an associate professor of ophthalmology in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. His research focuses on inherited blinding diseases affecting both animals and humans. He is on the clinical staff of the MSU Veterinary Medical Center and member of the MSU Comparative Ophthalmology Laboratory. He also maintains adjunct faculty appointments at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Florida.

Because of the vital role clinician-scientists play in translating between clinical practice and discovery research, it has always been my career goal to obtain both clinical and basic research training. I have been very fortunate to accomplish this goal by becoming both a veterinary ophthalmologist and a vision researcher.

In my clinical work I am confronted daily with new observations and questions that deserve further investigations in the laboratory. Furthermore, as a clinician-scientist I am optimally positioned to move new discoveries from the laboratory bench to the human and animal patient’s ‘bedside’. At the veterinary hospital transition from the patient to the laboratory (and vice versa) are symbolized for me by the close proximity between our eye clinic and research facilities.

While pursuing two parallel career paths and having two professions is very challenging and time consuming, it is also extremely satisfying because I can see the immediate impact our work has on the quality of life in both humans and animals.

I have been very fortunate to be involved in the development of new gene therapies for two inherited retinal diseases which have been or are currently being translated into clinical trials. These successes have been made possible thanks to the great mentoring I have received over the years and by the close collaborations we have established with clinician, scientists and pet owners around the world.

Why study eye diseases in animals? Our Comparative Ophthalmology Service examines and treats a large variety of animal species with eye diseases; the most commonly seen animal species are dogs, cats and horses.

My research is mainly focused on canine eye diseases. The eyes of dogs are very similar to human eyes and many eye diseases affect both species. Most importantly, glaucoma and inherited retinal diseases are among the leading causes for incurable vision loss, and therefore of great interest to us.

We are interested in the investigation of cellular and molecular disease mechanisms and ultimately the development of new therapies. As lead author, one of the highlights of our research included developing successful gene replacement therapy in dogs with total color blindness (achromatopsia). The results of that work were published in 2010 and 2013.

Our multi-disciplinary team, including researchers from University of Pennsylvania and University of Florida, continues to work on optimizing and improving this treatment for translation into human clinical trials. Patient selection is currently underway by our collaborators for Phase I clinical trials for this severe childhood visual impairment. We are also putting much effort in the development of a new therapeutic concept for a common form of glaucoma by use of gene therapy.

The support of my research colleagues and the clinical team from the veterinary medical center helps make all my work possible, in addition to the generous support of several funding sources including the National Eye Institute/National Institutes of Health, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the Glaucoma Research Foundation.

Photo by G.L. Kohuth