UW News

May 15, 2003

Drusen behind the retina: Most older people have some, but what do they mean?

Dr. Joe Hollyfield, director of the Department of Ophthalmic Research at the Cole Eye Institute of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation will present this year’s Sidney Futterman Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, on Thursday, May 22.

Hollyfield, a leading researcher on the structure and diseases of the retina, will speak at 11 a.m. in room D-209, Turner Auditorium, at the Health Sciences Center. The lecture is open to everyone.

His topic is “Drusen: What Are They, Where Do They Come From, and What Do They Have to Do with Age-Related Macular Degeneration?”

One of the risk factors for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of legal blindness in people over 55, is the presence of “drusen,” spots visible behind the retina on an eye exam. Most people over 50 have some drusen (the German plural of druse), but an increase in their number and/or their size is associated with an increased risk of AMD. The relationship is not understood, however, and researchers hope that by learning more about the composition and growth of drusen, they will learn some way to prevent or treat AMD.

Hollyfield’s work involves characterizing the components of the drusen deposits, using several methods, including microscopy and protein identification using mass spectrometry. He works with eye tissue donated after death, both from normal eyes and from eyes with macular degeneration.

Hollyfield works on the same team of eye researchers as last year’s Futterman lecturer, Dr. John Crabb. Hollyfield has been at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation since 1995. He earned a Ph.D. in zoology at the University of Texas in 1966, and has been a teacher and researcher at Columbia University. From 1977 to 1995, he was at Cullen Eye Institute of Baylor University, where he directed the Vision Research Center.

The annual lecture is named for Dr. Sidney Futterman, a member of the UW Department of Ophthalmology faculty from 1966 until his death in 1979. His research on the metabolism of vitamin A in the retina is widely recognized and he received the Friedenwald Award of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology the year before his death.