Project Update 15.04.2020
I recently started the last year of my PhD, so most of my current activities revolve around finalizing my work and trying to publish it.
I am currently in the process of submitting a manuscript where I describe the use of a novel method named “fixel-based analysis” to assess optic nerve degeneration in glaucoma. Our work demonstrates the viability of this method as an alternative tool for assessing glaucoma, which could prove to be beneficial to glaucoma patients who are not ideal candidates for currently used ophthalmic tests.
Additionally, I am finalizing my analysis of a longitudinal study where I investigate the progression of visual pathway degeneration in glaucoma patients. This study is the first of its kind, and we believe it can bring new insights into the mechanism of spread of degeneration along the visual pathways of glaucoma patients.
My future plans are still unclear. I am considering pursuing a postdoctoral position where I can make use of all the technical skills that I have gained throughout my fellowship. I am also considering becoming an instructor or a teacher of some kind, as I have found out during my fellowship that I enjoy teaching quite a bit.
My EGRET+ Experience:
It was a roller coaster ride, filled with ups and downs. The knowledge and experience I have gained during my time as a fellow in EGRET+ is invaluable, but balancing the responsibilities of being an ITN fellow and a PhD student was difficult at times. Overall, I am sure that in the future I will look back on the last three years fondly.
What changes the brain in glaucoma?
Prof. Frans W. Cornelissen
Prof. Nomdo M. Jansonius
Background and interests:
My name is Shereif Haykal and I am from Egypt. I studied medicine at Ain Shams Universtiy, Cairo. Shortly after graduating, I started a residency program in diagnostic radiology at the university’s hospital. During my training, I developed an interest in (neuro)imaging research, so I decided to take some time off from clinical work to pursue my interest in research. And so I joined a Maser’s degree program in Biomedical Imaging at the University of Turku, Finland.
For my Master’s thesis, I analyzed cardiac CT images of aortic stenosis patients who underwent transcatheter aortic valve implantation (or TAVI), and correlated my findings with the clinical outcome of the procedure. I also produced a protocol for pre-procedural interpretation of cardiac CT images of potential TAVI subjects, aiming to improve the outcome through better patient selection. Upon obtaining my Master’s degree, I moved back home to finish my radiology training, after which I joined the EGRET+ program.
Aim of the project:
The traditional view of glaucoma is that of an eye disease in which an elevation of intraocular pressure (IOP) causes the death of retinal ganglion cells through simple mechanical stress, leading to characteristic visual field defects. However, between 30-39% of glaucoma patients have normal IOP on presentation, a condition referred to as normal-tension glaucoma. Furthermore, ocular hypertension commonly exists as an independent entity in the absence of glaucomatous retinal changes. This lack of consistency in the relationship between IOP and glaucomatous retinal changes challenges our conventional view of glaucoma. A proposed hypothesis is that glaucoma is a neurodegenerative disease of the whole brain, with retinal glaucomatous changes being an extension of that degeneration, and not a primary pathology of the retina. Indeed, numerous MRI studies investigating structural brain changes in glaucoma patients have found evidence of neurodegeneration both within the visual system and elsewhere in the brain, favoring the hypothesis that glaucoma is a global neurodegenerative disorder. My project aims to further study brain changes in glaucoma patients using structural MRI imaging techniques, such as diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), in order to better understand the underlying mechanisms of the glaucomatous disease process.