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Doheny Image Reading Center (DIRC)

The Doheny Image Reading Center (DIRC) is a leading Doheny Eye Institute research facility. It was established in 2003 as a hub where researchers everywhere can send their high-tech photographic images of the eye for “reading” in a standardized fashion so that results from different institutes, centers, and industries are comparable across the board. This consistency speeds up the pace of discovery and the development of strategies for preventing, treating, and curing vision disorders.

Since DIRC’s inception, its specialists have read hundreds of thousands of images through their web-based systems and have expanded services that now range from providing standards for clients’ ophthalmic photographers, to project management, to disaster-proof data back-up systems, to data analysis; using proprietary software. “DIRC is one of the largest and most active ophthalmic reading centers in the nation,” reports administrative director Daniel Katz, “and among the top three or four in the world.”

The founder of DIRC is retina specialist, leader, and entrepreneur Dr. SriniVas R. Sadda. He and his team of reading experts and award-winning researchers produce results that are changing vision outcomes in disorders such as age-related macular degeneration, choroidal neovascularization, geographic atrophy, hereditary macular degeneration, vitreomacular interface disease, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, retinal vein occlusions, and peripheral retinal degeneration.

The recent addition to DIRC of glaucoma specialist Vikas Chopra, MD, and cornea specialist Olivia L. Lee, MD, brings even more expertise, in disorders of the eye’s anterior chamber and ocular surface, respectively.

In October 2014, DIRC moved into expansive new quarters in the Doheny Vision Research Center to accommodate its growing obligations worldwide.

The DIRC product, if you will, is the know-how of its specialists who read digital photographs of the eye and then apply statistical algorithms to quantify microscopic signs of visual health and disease. Many DIRC clients are pharmaceutical companies testing the safety and effectiveness of potential therapeutic compounds for eye disorders. Only when a pharmaceutical company can provide evidence of a compound’s safety and efficacy will regulatory agencies like the US Food and Drug Administration consider approving it for marketing and sale.

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SriniVas Sadda, MD, the founder of DIRC, is President and Chief Scientific Officer of the Doheny Eye Institute. The yellowish feather-shaped feature on the screen is a retinal defect.

“Our goal is the generation of useful and correlative data to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of potential new treatments and the validation of non-invasive imaging techniques in the monitoring and management of ophthalmic diseases,” says Dr. Sadda.

Between 2011 and 2016, the DIRC team has grown from approximately 11 people to more than 70 and is a department within the Doheny Eye Institute.

DIRC is introducing new “front end” and “back end” services, as Katz describes it, “so that clinical research sites and pharmaceutical clients can access data and other types of information in real time.” The new services will further streamline image reading and delivery of results.

DIRC and Diabetic Eye Disease

The kaleidoscopic-looking images below show how DIRC experts can map areas of the retina to detect the loss of visual function in patients with diabetic retinopathy. This DIRC schematic uses blue and green to represent a healthy retina. Progressively hotter colors correspond to progressively mild to extreme diabetic retinopathy. Notice a small island of green in the map labeled “F.”

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Vision scientists are looking for treatments that will effectively keep the color scheme tilted toward robust blues and greens. More than 7.5 million people in the US over the age of 40 have diabetic retinopathy. An over-represented group is Hispanic men older than 75, which in the LA area alone represents many individuals. The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health projects that by 2050 the number of people living with diabetic retinopathy will be 15,000,000 unless we identify new prevention strategies and treatments. The condition can lead to blurred vision, changes in central vision, floating spots in the visual field, and even sudden vision loss. Many people with diabetic eye disease can no longer drive or read, to name a few losses.

Dr. Sadda, the founder of DIRC, has spent his career becoming an eye disease expert. That means he has seen plenty of experimental therapies that have tried but failed to help patients with vision loss. He believes that imaging technologies will be change-makers when it comes to pinpointing eye disease and the therapies that work. Those kaleidoscopic patterns, while beautiful to the untrained eye, are absolutely remarkable to Dr. Sadda and his colleagues in what they say about eye health and disease. Many of the findings are reported in scientific journals and at international conferences including the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO).

To learn more about DIRC, please visit here.