Medical Discovery

​​​​Medical discovery is a critical part of the Eye Institute’s mission. Our scientists, many of whom are also clinicians, seek to understand the healthy and diseased eye, with the ultimate goal of eliminating suffering from eye disease.
Vision research is thriving at UW Medicine. Researchers at the University of Washington hold more than 40 National Institutes of Health grants related to vision and optic nerve work, making it one of the country’s leading institutions engaged in vision research.
Eye Institute researchers collaborate with colleagues who are experts in fields as diverse as engineering, psychology, physiology and biophysics, biological structure and genomics. As an international computer science and biotech center, Seattle offers the opportunity for UW Medicine to join forces with outstanding scientists from the private sector.

For 34 consecutive years, the University of Washington has held a National Eye Institute Vision Core Grant, which is administered through the Department of Ophthalmology. The Core facilities serve to bring together researchers from across the university.

A few of our ongoing research projects include:
  • Efforts to reverse blindness using artificial cornea. Dr. Tueng Shen, a UW associate professor of ophthalmology and an adjunct in bioengineering, .and the director of the UW Medicine Refractive Surgery Center at UW Medical Center, is one of a few surgeons in the world trained in this surgery. 
  • Therapies using stem cells to restore vision for patients with age-related eye diseases, such as cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Dr. Jennifer Chao and colleagues at the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine are planning the first clinical trials with these new treatments. 
  • Gene therapy for eye disorders. Scientists Jay and Maureen Neitz recently published the first successful use of gene therapy in the primate eye to correct color blindness. This work has great portent for the correction of many hereditary- and age-related eye conditions.