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More Doctors, More Options for Our Youngest Retina Patients

Kellogg continues to expand our ability to offer hope for infants and children and their families with acquired and inherited retinal diseases (IRDs). One of a handful of clinics in the country devoted to pediatric retinal disease, Kellogg offers the latest medical and surgical treatment options for children with IRD and other retinal conditions such as Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP).

Kellogg is one of a few (14) U.S. treatment centers approved to offer Luxturna, the first F.D.A. approved gene therapy shown to improve vision in patients with IRDs linked to a mutation in the gene RPE65®. The treatment involves surgically injecting a working copy of the RPE65 gene under the retina of each eye. Because it is important for patients to have viable retinal cells, most patients undergo the surgery as children prior to the complete loss of retinal cells due to the disease. The procedure may also be an option for adults with RPE65-related IRDs that progress slowly or manifest later in life.

“We have offered this therapy since 2017, with impressive results,” says Cagri G. Besirli, M.D., Ph.D., who performs the procedure at Kellogg. “We see a dramatic improvement in low light vision, and as a result, parents tell us their kids are more active, engaged and confident.”

Dr. Besirli notes that in addition to Luxturna®, Kellogg offers clinical trials of several other gene therapies for pediatric retina patients, including X-linked retinitis pigmentosa and achromatopsia.

Other retina specialists who care for pediatric retina patients include K. Thiran Jayasundera, M.D., M.S., and Abigail Fahim, M.D., Ph.D., who focus on retinal dystrophies; and pediatric ophthalmologists Pamela Williams, M.D., and Steven Archer, M.D., who specialize in the treatment of ROP, an abnormal growth of retinal blood vessels in premature babies.

These physicians and physician-scientists are supported by an attending rheumatologist, April Marquardt, M.D., and a dedicated electrophysiologist, Naheed Khan, Ph.D., along with a team of genetic counselors, researchers and technicians.

The team is expanding to meet the growing volume of complex pediatric patients and the growing array of treatment options. In addition to Drs. Besirli, Jayasundera and Fahim, Thomas Wubben, M.D., Ph.D. also is part of the team and Emily Eton, M.D., will come on board upon completing her fellowship in 2023. Dr. Eton’s research has already laid important groundwork for improving and expanding fellowship training opportunities in ROP and other pediatric retina disorders.

“By building the depth and cross-coverage of our team,” adds Dr. Besirli, “Kellogg is poised to host more translational research and clinical trials, and attract more trainees to the pediatric retina subspecialty.” Dr. Besirli and Dr. Jayasundera have already trained colleagues from Ohio State, Wayne State, University of Illinois-Chicago, Brazil and elsewhere around the world.