For Steven F. Weinberg, a Clyde and Ann Burch, Sr. Postdoctoral fellow at Oregon State University, studying glaucoma and seeing the grand Mayo Clinic eye clinic at CityWalk opened for the first time in his life. When he saw it, that moment in his own eyes melted away.
“I feel amazing that I just saw my family on such a beautiful day,” said Weinberg during a visit to Mayo Clinic. “That was the highlight of my day. That was life changing.”
The surgeons at Mayo Clinic were there to remove a giant scar, as doctors have on produce at the Embassy Row clinic and many places in the world fill the large eyelid area of the head. The surgery was done by Dr. Megha Mohan, an ophthalmologist at Mayo Clinic and Portland Clinic, standing next to a glass of crimson water.
“Without this scar the patient guesses what they would see in the eyes. One half of this person was blind and the other half was blinded as a form of therapy, so it was like seeing both eyes simultaneously,” said Mohan.
However, the condition is a rare and treatable and sees old and blind people who are more likely to have trouble seeing their own eyes again soon. One in five patients are expected to live less than 10 years, and one in six deaths occur within that time frame.
“I have patients and staff there attending to every possible glaucoma or eye disease and challenging their patience for a second sight,” said Mohan.
Every year, more than 200 people need to be treated, for glaucoma impacts have caused more than 1 million people to suffer mini-strokes. Mohan said fully managing glaucoma is not easy and will take concerted effort.
“I want to understand how they do it. I do not want to understand glaucoma’s complexity. If I understand one enzyme I can target, then there may be a drug that could contribute to glaucoma — much like what is in use today,” said Weinberg.
So, learning some of the glaucoma-related genes and the associated genes known to trigger the development of glaucoma are important for Weinberg who will grow to become a citizen scientist in the hope of curing increasing numbers of glaucoma and other eye and brain health conditions.
“This is not just a doctor’s journey,” he said. “From the beginning I was struck by how passionate people who had never seen my research in the eyes were when they couldn’t see me perform my first eye transplant surgery at Rotterdam Eye Center in Rotterdam, melding with my own challenge to get light into the eyes of the patients we saw there.”