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Lloyd M. Aiello, M.D.

Dr. Aiello is an Investigator in the Section on Eye Research and the Founding Director of the Beetham Eye Institute at Joslin, as well as Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Aiello received his medical degree from Boston University, and completed postgraduate work at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

Dr. Aiello has authored more than 95 original articles and 37 book chapters and review articles. He has served as Trustee of Joslin Diabetes Center; member of the Executive Committee of the Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School; and President of the New England Ophthalmological Society.

Dr. Aiello’s many honors include the Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, the David Rumbough Scientific Award of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation International, the Lighthouse Pisart Vision Award, the Leo R. Breitman Excellence in Research Award from the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation Massachusetts Affiliate, the Massachusetts Society of Eye Physicians and Surgeons Man of the Year, the American Diabetes Association Outstanding Physician Clinician in Diabetes Award, the 2003 American Telemedicine Association President’s Award in recognition of his contributions in the development of telemedicine and its advancement worldwide, and the 2003 Gertrude D. Pyron Award for Outstanding Achievement in Retina Research in recognition of his lifelong contribution to the understanding and treatment of diabetic retinopathy. 

Dr. Aiello is the second of three generations of Joslin ophthalmologists. Working with his father-in-law, William P. Beetham, M.D., Dr. Aiello revolutionized the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy (the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina), which previously caused a 75 to 80 percent risk of blindness for patients with diabetes. In 1967, Drs. Aiello and Beetham pioneered a laser surgical technique that ultimately reduced the risk of blindness to less than 2 percent in both eyes, provided that patients with diabetes are diagnosed and treated early and followed carefully. His landmark paper “Ruby Laser Photocoagulation in Treatment of Diabetic Proliferating Retinopathy” was published in 1969.

For the next 20 years, Dr. Aiello served as the Principal Investigator in clinical trials proving the efficacy of treatment. Dr. Aiello was a Principal Investigator and served on leadership committees for the National Eye Institute and National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored Diabetic Retinopathy Study, Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study, Diabetic Retinopathy Vitrectomy Study and Diabetes Control and Complications Trial. He also was Co-Chairman of the Early Treatment Diabetic Retinopathy Study. These studies set the standard of care for diabetic retinopathy today.

In addition to his research role, Dr. Aiello was appointed Director of Joslin’s Beetham Eye Institute in 1971, and in 2005 was named Founding Director.  From 1990 to 2001, Dr. Aiello also headed the Section on Eye Research, a position now held by his son, Lloyd Paul Aiello, M.D., Ph.D. In 1990, Dr. Aiello and Sven-Erik Bursell, Ph.D., began to develop the Joslin Vision Network (JVN), a system using advanced video technology for the early detection of abnormal blood-vessel growth in the retina, as well as other vessel changes causing fluid leakage and retinal damage. With their colleagues, Drs. Aiello and Bursell developed novel ways to image the retina for signs of diabetic retinopathy, compress the images and send them electronically for immediate and remote diagnosis.

Now, the JVN camera stations are deployed in over 70 sites in 20 states and the kingdom of Bahrain. The JVN offers the potential for early prevention or intervention to patients at risk who might not otherwise have access to sophisticated diagnostic techniques for diabetic retinopathy. An important part of the network is continuing clinical trial evaluation of diagnostic and treatment techniques. Every patient at Joslin’s Beetham Eye Institute or at a remote JVN site may be eligible to participate in the clinical trials. Whether or not patients participate, the precision of their treatment and the data about their care are identical to those of participants in clinical trials.

Future goals for the Joslin Vision Network include more sophisticated video technology to image the cells of the retina more precisely, and automated diagnostic reading of the images. Dr. Aiello also envisions providing remote, robotic laser treatment for diabetic retinopathy to patients thousands of miles from Boston.

Selected References

Aiello LM. Perspectives on diabetic retinopathy. Am J Ophthalmol 136:122-135, 2003.

Aiello LM, Beetham WP, Balodimos MC, et al. Ruby laser photocoagulation in treatment of diabetic proliferating retinopathy: preliminary report. Symposium on the Treatment of Diabetic Retinopathy. Goldberg MF, Fine SL (eds). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. US Public Health Service Publication 1890, pp. 437–463, 1969.

Page last updated: October 21, 2014