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Ocular Surface Disease and Dry Eye Research

Research Projects (Currently Recruiting)

  • Previous studies of dexamethasone eye drops show good results for dry eye disease. However, these drugs cause blurring and discomfort, and rely on frequent and consistent administration. The amount released per eye drop also disrupts the protective “mucin layer” of the eye. Dextenza is a plug in the lower tear duct, which slowly releases a low dose of dexamethasone for up to 30 days. The plug naturally degrades, and does not need to be removed.

    Eligible patients are adults with dry eyes who have 1 open punctum in each eye (there are 2 punctum in each eye that can be closed using plugs or permanent cautery). There will be a total of 5 visits over 42 days.

    For more information or to confirm your eligibility, contact: Michael Lin, research coordinator at or 410-502-4026.

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a newly identified, highly contagious RNA virus causing respiratory infectious disease, Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Conjunctivitis has been reported as a rare finding of the disease, and preliminary studies showed that the virus RNA could be detected in ocular secretions using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays when conjunctivitis present. This study aims to estimate the proportion of SARS-CoV-2 associated conjunctivitis among patients with suspected viral conjunctivitis presented to the ophthalmology clinics of Wilmer Eye Institute during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigators also aim to identify whether SARS-CoV-2 associated conjunctivitis is an isolated finding or an early sign of COVID-19.

    Patients age 18 years and older develop new red-eye complaints, as well as tearing, irritation, and swelling will be recruited. Swabs will be taken from eyes, nose, and throat to identify whether the eye condition was caused by this novel coronavirus.

    For more information or to confirm your eligibility, contact Sezen Karakus, M.D. at or 410-955-5080.

  • This study will employ sophisticated techniques to determine the ocular surface microbiome and its associations with the inflammatory response in patients with rosacea. This will help us understand underlying mechanisms and develop better-targeted treatment modalities.

    Patients age 18 years and older with ocular rosacea and healthy subjects with no rosacea will be recruited. Ocular surface microbiome will be investigated through a lid margin swab. Participants will be administered a standardized questionnaire reviewing their ocular and systemic health at baseline. All participants will undergo skin and lid margin assessment followed by dry eye testing.

    For more information or to confirm your eligibility, contact Sezen Karakus, M.D. at or 410-955-5080.

  • This is a multi-center, observational, exploratory study evaluating the clinical characteristics of conjunctivitis events in DUPIXENT®-treated patients with atopic dermatitis (AD); this study will also investigate cellular and molecular biomarkers in ocular samples (collected from the conjunctival surface and tear fluid) and peripheral blood. All eligible patients must be ≥18 to ≤65 years of age and must have ongoing treatment with DUPIXENT® for AD that was initiated at least 8 weeks prior to study enrollment.

    Scheduled visits for patients with protocol-specified conjunctivitis events include the initial ophthalmology visit on day 1 (initial study visit), and follow-up visits at week 4, week 12, and week 24. There will be a total of 4 visits over 6 months. Reference patients (ie, without clinical signs of ocular inflammation) are required to complete only the day 1 and week 4 visits. There will be a total of 2 visits over 4 weeks. All participants will be given a parking pass.

    For more information or to confirm your eligibility, contact: Michael Lin, research coordinator at or 410-502-4026.


Research Projects (Not Recruiting)

  • Dr. Akpek is testing the clinical outcomes of an artificial cornea prototype (corneal keratoprosthesis) designed jointly by Johns Hopkins and W.L. Gore.

  • Cyclosporine, a commonly used ophthalmic prescription medication for dry eye syndrome, is being studied for its long-term clinical efficacy and side effects.

  • The autoantibodies SSA and SSB are traditionally used to test for Sjögren’s Syndrome in suspected patients. These tests can show a false-negative result in patients with early-onset Sjögren’s, whereas the novel autoantibodies (SP-1, CA6, PSP) have been shown to better detect early Sjögren’s. We are studying the longitudinal results of patients who received this test, and its clinical utility.

  • Numerous separate projects are observing the link between Sjögren’s Syndrome and other eye conditions, including but not limited to: cicatrizing conjunctivitis, sarcoidosis and other autoimmune conditions, and corneal complications.

  • Lifitegrast, an ophthalmic prescription medication for dry eye syndrome, was approved by the FDA in 2016. Our team is studying the intermediate clinical outcomes including efficacy, patient adherence, and side effects, in a large patient population.

  • With collaboration from the Jerome L. Green Sjögren’s Syndrome Center, we have established a database of Sjögren’s and non- Sjögren’s dry eye patients. We are tracking the longitudinal outcomes of these patients including their ocular surface status and disease, other ocular symptoms, and systemic involvement.

Selected Publications and Articles

  • Dr. Akpek featured in Bloomberg Businessweek article for her work with artificial corneas with the GORE-TEX Eye. Read more.
  • Dr. Karakus and Dr. Akpek show the impact of dry eye disease on reading rate in JHU Hub article. Read more.
  • Dr. Akpek discusses the common health conditions that can cause dry eyes in Bustle. Read more.
  • Dr. Akpek reviews more than 60 peer-reviewed publications regarding the treatments utilized in Sjögren’s Syndrome dry eye. Read more.
  • Dr. Akpek and Dr. Hessen investigate a group of patients with Sjogren’s syndrome; they report the ocular and systemic diseases experiences by these patients on follow-up. Read more.
  • Dr. Karakus and Dr. Akpek study the role and clinical correlation of using novel autoantibody testing for Sjögren’s Syndrome in patients with dry eye disease. Read more.

Research Team Members

  • Priya Mathews, M.D., M.P.H. - Research Associate

    Dr. Mathews obtained her medical and master's degrees in Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. She completed her ophthalmology residency at Columbia University Medical Center and is a recent graduate of the Cornea and External Diseases Fellowship at the Wilmer Eye Institute. Her research interests include: ocular surface disease, epidemiology of global corneal blindness, eyebanking, and developing new methods to promote corneal transplantation in areas with greatest need.

    Priya Mathews
  • David Cui, M.D. – Clinical Research Assistant

    David completed his undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins in Biology and Public Health. He graduated medical school from the Pennsylvania State University and is a research assistant with the Ocular Surface Disease and Dry Eye Clinic. His research interests include Sjögren’s and dry eye disease, medical education, and patient-reported outcomes.

    David Cui
  • Gavin Li, B.S. - Clinical Research Assistant

    Gavin completed his undergraduate degree at Johns Hopkins in Neuroscience. He is a medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and a research assistant with the Ocular Surface and Dry Eye Clinic. His research interests include ocular surface disease, novel surgical techniques, and outcomes of artificial corneal transplantation.

    gavin li faculty photo
  • Michael Lin, B.A. - Research Coordinator

    Michael Lin is a research coordinator at the Wilmer Eye Institute at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He manages clinical research studies, with a research emphasis on dry eye disease, Sjögren's syndrome, and ocular surface rehabilitation. Michael Lin received his bachelor's in biophysics from Johns Hopkins University.

    Michael Lin faculty photo
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