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Growth of Ocular Biomechanics evident at 2014 World Congress of Biomechanics

The growth of the field of ocular biomechanics was on display at the 7th World Congress of Biomechanics July 6 to July 11, 2014, and the UAB Department of Ophthalmology Program of Ocular Biomechanics and Biotransport was at the forefront of this exciting meeting. 

Rafael Grytz, Ph.D., assistant professor of ophthalmology, was invited to co-organize and chair the Biomechanics of the Eye Symposium, which featured 18 presentations and one keynote lecture about the field of ocular biomechanics.

This represents the largest number of ocular biomechanics presentations the World Congress of Biomechanics has ever included. Ocular biomechanics researchers are working to understand the root causes for many of the most prevalent eye diseases, which may eventually lead to the discovery new treatments and cures.

“The World Congress of Biomechanics only occurs every four years and it is exciting that biomechanics of the eye is playing a larger role in this prestigious meeting,” said Dr. Grytz. “Research from UAB Ophthalmology is not only leading in the area of ocular biomechanics but throughout the general field of computational growth and remodeling simulations.”

Members of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology gave three presentations at the meeting:

  • Dr. Grytz has been studying the underlying biomechanical changes in the eye associated with keratoconus, a disease of the cornea that affects approximately 1 in 2000 people and has an unknown cause. Through predictive computer modeling Dr. Grytz demonstrated that biomechanically driven growth and remodeling mechanisms can lead to the same clinically observed changes in keratoconus, which supports the notion that progression of the disease is linked to biomechanical changes in the cornea. This is the first study to show these findings. Understanding the underlying changes associated with keratoconus will help scientists eventually discover new treatments and cures for this vision-stealing disease.
  • J. Crawford Downs, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and director of the UAB Program for Ocular Biomechanics and Biotransport, presented research that concludes there are age- and race-related differences in scleral material properties resulting in a loss of scleral compliance. This loss of compliance may contribute to the higher susceptibility to glaucoma of the elderly and persons of African descent.
  • Massimo Fazio, Ph.D., ophthalmology research associate, presented research quantifying the changes in the peripapillary human sclera’s ability to absorb mechanical energy from intra-ocular pressure-induced deformations associated with age and ethnicity. Increased intra-ocular pressure (IOP) is a primary risk factor for the development of glaucoma. This research showed that the sclera suffers a significant loss with age of its ability to “dump” the insults deriving from physiologic variations of the IOP. Moreover, this age-related loss of compliance occurs more rapidly in eyes of African descent compared to those of European descent, which may increase the magnitude of transient IOP elevations and thereby contribute to the increased susceptibility to glaucoma of the elderly and persons of African descent.

Source: UAB News