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Grant to support research of blinding diseases

by Erman,Linda last modified Jun 17, 2010 11:46 AM

March 3, 2010

Support from the Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) will enable UofL scientists and clinician-scientists to continue exploring the causes, treatment and prevention of several blinding diseases. RPB, a foundation devoted to curing blindness, recently awarded the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences a $100,000 unrestricted grant.

“The funds will support our research into finding novel diagnostic methods and treatments for age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma,” said Henry Kaplan, M.D., chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences.

For example, Kaplan is conducting research to recover vision in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, an eye disease where damage to the retina gets worse over time. It is the most common form of hereditary retinal degeneration in the United States.

Kaplan and his team of researchers will conduct initial research on a miniature swine model, developed at the University of Missouri National Swine Resource Research Center (NSRRC). They will implant a retinal prosthesis beneath the retina of the pig and record the visual response from the brain, as well as use stem cells to regenerate areas of the retina destroyed by the disease.

“This will allow us to study and evaluate new ways of recovering vision,” Kaplan said.

RPB funding also supports the work of a second research group pioneering the use of stem cells in age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. These researchers have induced certain stem cells to become retinal cells. They are studying whether these cells will have the ability to replace the retinal cells that are typically destroyed by these diseases.

To date, the UofL School of Medicine has received over $3 million from RPB.

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