A Window into the Brain

Wills Eye Partners with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital to Launch the Annesley EyeBrain Center

A first-of-its-kind partnership between Wills Eye Hospital and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Jefferson) was announced, which could provide revolutionary research, diagnosis and potential treatments for neurological diseases.

Wills Eye and Jefferson have partnered to launch the Annesley EyeBrain Center, housed within Jefferson’s  Vickie and Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience.

What is the Annesley EyeBrain Center?

The Annesley EyeBrain Center, named in honor of ophthalmology pioneer, professor and former Wills Eye  Attending Surgeon, and Jefferson alumnus, William H. Annesley, Jr., MD, will focus solely on the visual signatures of neurological diseases, exploring the connections between the retina, optic nerve, and disorders of the brain. Center leadership hopes this new approach will reveal novel treatments for debilitating diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, and dementia.

“Because of the anatomic and physiological connections between the eye and brain, ophthalmology and neurology are inextricably linked,” said Robert C. Sergott, MD, Chief of Neuro-Ophthalmology Service at Wills Eye Hospital and the Center’s founding Executive Director. “This is the perfect synergy. The Annesley EyeBrain Center will leverage the strengths of the region’s most extensive neuroscience network with the nation’s leading hospital for vision care.”

How are Ophthalmology and Neurology related?

One of the Annesley EyeBrain Center’s revolutionary areas of research involves mitochondrial function in the retina. Using Multi-Color Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT), a breakthrough technology, researchers can now see mitochondrial function disruption before there is cell-death or even disease symptoms, opening an entirely new frontier in the diagnosis and treatment of devastating neurological disorders such as multiple sclerosis, ALS, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

“As the first center exploring the connections between the retina and disorders of the brain, the Annesley EyeBrain Center will revolutionize ophthalmic and neurological care and establish a new frontier in neuro-ophthalmology,” said Julia A. Haller, MD, the William Tasman, MD Endowed Chair and Ophthalmologist-in-Chief of Wills Eye Hospital and Professor and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. “And as a tribute to the remarkable life and career of Dr. Annesley, it will cement his legacy of excellence, preserving his values and reputation for generations to come.”

Who Founded the Annesley EyeBrain Center?

The Annesley EyeBrain Center is the brainchild of Dr. Robert C. Sergott, MD, Chief of the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service at Wills Eye Hospital and Professor of Ophthalmology, Neurology, and Neurosurgery at Sidney Kimmel Medical College.  Dr. Sergott’s clinical interests include optic neuropathies and multiple sclerosis, as well as the innovative field of tele-ophthalmology. In 1996, by vote of the departmental chairs of ophthalmology departments throughout the United States, he was selected as one of the best 100 ophthalmologists in America.

He has received competitive research grant awards from the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute. He is currently involved in multiple clinical trials and grants on the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of neurodegenerative diseases and has represented several sponsors in their successful new drug applications with the United States Food and Drug Administration [FDA] and the European Medicines Agency [EMA].

What is the Neuro Ophthalmology Service at Wills Eye Hospital and what vision problems does it address?

Since the eye and brain are so closely connected and even attached, (the eye is actually an outgrowth of the brain) when a patient is experiencing dramatic and sudden changes in vison, at times, it can signal a brain issue – rather than the vision problem being solely with the eyes. Vision problems that merit a call to the doctor or a trip to the ER include sudden vision loss, stabbing pain in one eye or both eyes, double vision, and vision that comes and goes. Those could be signs that more involved problems are going on or are about to occur.

Service Chief, Robert C. Sergott, MD, leads the renowned department with his team of fellow neuro ophthalmologists, medical and administrative staff. The specialists diagnose and treat all disorders that affect the nerves and muscles in and around the eye and also treat ocular manifestations of glandular conditions, such as thyroid eye disease, (Graves’ eye disease) as well as autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), and Parkinson’s Disease (PD.)

The Neuro Ophthalmology team at Wills Eye also treats optic neuropathy, myasthenia gravis and the eye disorders and conditions that may occur with brain tumors, AIDS and stroke.