From left, Rohit Varma, Narsing Rao, Mark Humayun, Michael Selsted and Ronald Green during the grand opening of the Ophthalmic Molecular and Immuno-Pathology Lab at the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute, April 8 on the Health Sciences Campus.

From left, Rohit Varma, Narsing Rao, Mark Humayun, Michael Selsted and Ronald Green during the grand opening of the Ophthalmic Molecular and Immuno-Pathology Lab at the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute, April 8 on the Health Sciences Campus.

One of the few dedicated eye pathology labs in the country has opened at the Keck School of Medicine, providing an important resource for clinical applications, education, and researchers to study the delicate, sometimes very small tissue samples that are common in ophthalmology.

The Ophthalmic Molecular and Immuno-Pathology Lab at the USC Gayle and Edward Roski Eye Institute, under the direction of Narsing A. Rao, MD, professor of ophthalmology and pathology, opened April 8 on the USC Health Sciences Campus.

To handle the small specimens common in eye pathology, a dedicated lab with a properly trained technician is preferred, providing the specific expertise to make proper diagnoses based on a minimal amount of available tissue.

“General pathologists are not exposed to these kinds of material,” Rao explained. “That’s one reason that the eye pathology lab is needed. Eye pathologists are trained ophthalmologists, as well as trained pathologists.”

The lab utilizes various examination methods, including molecular diagnostic techniques. This allows not only for diagnosis but also prognosis of a given condition.

The lab, which had an opening reception on March 31, provides expertise in complex ophthalmic cases for Keck Medicine of USC, as well as other local and regional hospitals.

Residents and fellows from the USC Roski Eye Institute also will be rotating through the lab as part of their education, so they can use this training to make proper clinical diagnoses. General pathology departments cannot provide training specific to ophthalmology.

“Establishing this integrated pathology and ophthalmology service enables a level of patient care, teaching, and research that continues a long history of excellence in academic eye care at USC,” said Michael E. Selsted, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Pathology. “The central role of the new laboratory ensures that USC Roski Eye Institute patients receive state-of-the-art care while continuing to support ophthalmology education and discovery.”

Researchers also will benefit from the opening of the lab, where tissue and fluid samples will be stored and made available for analysis in clinical trials, studies and advancements in diagnostic and clinical techniques.

Rohit Varma, MD, MPH, director of the USC Roski Eye Institute, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and interim dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is pleased that the lab is now available for use.

“The pathology lab is a great resource for physicians, scientists, educators and students at Keck Medicine and throughout the community,” he stated. “We are excited at the prospect of being able to advance clinical diagnoses and scientific research in the field of ophthalmic pathology and molecular diagnosis.”

Rao believes that the success of the lab would not be possible without the cooperation and enthusiasm of Keck School leadership. “I’m grateful for both the chairman, Dr. Varma, as well as the pathology chair Dr. Selsted. To do this, it has to be a close cooperation between two disciplines.”

by Amanda Busick