Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Eye spy: OU professor engaging in leading edge researchBy Rene Wisely, contributing writer
Dr. Susmit Suvas, an assistant professor in Oakland University’s Department of Biological Sciences, recently won a two-year, nearly $403,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute grant to research how secretions and immunology of nerves in the eye affect the corneas of people infected with herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1)
|Dr. Susmit Suvas
“Because no one has studied this before, it’s considered high risk but the NIH sees the benefits it might bring,” he explained.
HSV-1, the same virus that causes mouth cold sores, can cause chronic inflammation in the corneal stroma, the thickest of the five layers of a cornea. Left untreated, the inflammation can give rise to herpetic stromal keratitis (HSK), a disease that results in permanent scarring of the cornea and is a leading cause of infection-induced corneal blindness in the United States.
“Right now there is only one form of treatment for the problem and that’s with steroids,” Dr. Suvas said. “And if you know steroids, there are significant side effects with long-term use of them.”
Because 60 to 80 percent of the world population has the HSV-1 virus lying dormant in nerve bundles in their body, the need is great to find a better treatment plan and, ultimately, a cure for infection-induced corneal blindness.
“Studies, such as those being conducted by Dr. Susmit Suvas, to decipher the neuroimmunology of HSV-1 keratitis and the underlying mechanisms of corneal damage may lead to therapies that target specific effector molecules which, in turn, will reduce corneal scarring and preserve vision,” said Sally S. Atherton, executive vice president of the Maryland-based Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Dr. Suvas joined OU in 2007 after completing his post-doctoral research and as an assistant professor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He said he views the opening of the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine and collaboration with Beaumont Hospital as an opportunity to apply his immunology research and help people directly.