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Ocular biomechanics expert joins faculty

Fazio webportraitMassimo Antonio Fazio, Ph.D., joins the UAB Department of Ophthalmology as an assistant professor. Dr. Fazio holds a joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical Engineering. As a mechanical engineer, Dr. Fazio has dedicated his career to developing customized methods and non-contact optical techniques to measure deformations in loaded materials to gain a deeper understanding of the biomechanical properties of ocular tissues. His work is currently focused on investigating how intraocular pressure (IOP) drives structural changes in the eye in relationship to age, race, and ocular diseases like glaucoma.

Through his multidisciplinary background in machine construction, experimental mechanics and the biomechanical characterization of soft tissues, Dr. Fazio is able to develop novel of imaging machines and techniques. For example, he has collaborated with colleagues at the University of Calabria to design and build the world’s first Electronic Speckle Pattern Interferometer to measure dynamic deformations of the sclera in response to high-frequency IOP fluctuations. This work will help UAB scientists further understand the causal relationship between the biomechanics of the eye and the development and progression of diseases like glaucoma, myopia and keratoconus.

“We were very excited to recruit Dr. Fazio. He is a brilliant engineer and we are fortunate he has focused his research on the biomechanical behavior of the eye wall and optic nerve,” says Christopher Girkin, professor and chairman of the UAB Department of Ophthalmology. “This comes at an opportune time, as Dr. Fazio can help build a foundation for success between the departments of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering, which was recently established as a joint department between the schools of Engineering and Medicine. Dr. Fazio’s recruitment was made possible by generous support from the EyeSight Foundation of Alabama’s Research Acceleration Initiative, which enabled the development of this cross-campus collaboration. Their funding has been a catalyst for numerous successes in vision science, including helping us build a leading program of ocular biomechanics here at UAB."

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity that the departments of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Engineering, together with the EyeSight Foundation, offered me. UAB is quite a unique research institute because its tight connection with the Birmingham community serves as a catalyst for research. We have access to a diverse strata of tissue samples because the population of Birmingham is diverse and the community understands the value of donating tissue for research. Therefore our research can be representative of the global population response to eye disease and treatments. And that’s quite a sweet deal! We hope the customized, modern, and advanced engineering methods we are developing will move the field forward. We will be able to test hypotheses that were not possible to investigate before due to technical limitations, and the results from these studies will broaden treatment possibilities in certain ocular pathologies,” said Dr. Fazio.

Originally from Italy, Dr. Fazio earned his master’s of science in engineering as well as his doctorate in mechanical engineering from the University of Calabria in Cosenza, Italy. He then completed further postdoctoral training in ocular biomechanics at the Devers Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon, with J. Crawford Downs, Ph.D. Dr. Fazio was recruited to UAB in 2012 by Downs to be part of the Ocular Biomechanics and Biotransport Program.

"We are delighted to have Dr. Fazio join the UAB Ocular Biomechanics and Biotransport Program as faculty. His recruitment will allow us to expand both the breadth and depth of our studies, and he adds a unique set of skills that we will leverage to accelerate our collaborative quest for cures of blinding diseases,” said Dr. Downs.

Dr. Fazio is a member of numerous professional organizations including the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, Optical Society of America, and International Society for Eye Research.

For more information view his full profile here.

Source: UAB News