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Treating disease by the numbers
Date:9/20/2012

Mathematical modeling being tested by researchers at the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) and the IU School of Medicine has the potential to impact the knowledge and treatment of several diseases that continue to challenge scientists across the world.

The National Science Foundation recently recognized the work led by Drs. Giovanna Guidoboni, associate professor of mathematics in the School of Science, and Alon Harris, professor of ophthalmology and director of clinical research at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute, for its new approach to understanding what actually causes debilitating diseases like glaucoma. Their research could translate to more efficient treatments for diseases like diabetes and hypertension as well.

Glaucoma is the second-leading cause of blindness in the world, yet the only primary form of treatment is to reduce pressure in the patient's eye. However, as many as one-third of the glaucoma patients have no elevated eye pressure, and the current inability to better understand what risk factors led to the disease can hinder treatment options.

Mathematical modeling, which creates an abstract model using mathematical language to describe the behavior of a system, allows doctors to better measure things like blood flow and oxygen levels in fine detail in the eye, the easiest human organ to study without invasive procedures. Models also can be used to estimate what cannot be measured directly, such as the pressure in the ocular vessels.

Through simulations, the mathematical model can help doctors determine the cause and effect of reduced blood flow, cell death and ocular pressure and how those risk factors affect one another in the presence of glaucoma. A better understanding of these factorsand the ability to accurately measure their interactioncould greatly improve doctors' ability to treat the root causes of disease, Harris said.

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Contact: David Hosick
dhosick@iupui.edu
317-274-4585
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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