July 6, 2009
UI nets $3.6 million grant for glaucoma research
The National Institutes of Health has awarded a five-year, nearly $3.6 million grant to University of Iowa researchers who seek to understand the genes and disease processes involved in glaucoma, which is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness in the United States and the leading cause among African-Americans. The grant was effective July 1.
Glaucoma damages the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, and leads to vision loss, especially peripheral vision. High pressure in the eye is often related to this damage and vision loss.
The study's long-term goal is to identify and define pathways that lead from variations in the DNA sequence of the genome to the irreversible vision loss of glaucoma, said John Fingert, M.D., the study's principal investigator and an assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and an ophthalmologist with UI Hospitals and Clinics.
"We can measure signs of glaucoma, such as damage to the optic nerve and visual field loss," Fingert said. "But the series of events that lead to glaucoma is not well known, and this lack of knowledge hinders efforts for early detection and treatment of glaucoma."
A major aim of the grant is to identify genetic factors associated with glaucoma by conducting a genome-wide association study of the patients in a large treatment trial known as the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study. Parallel studies will also be conducted using animal models.
This project also will involve UI researchers in molecular physiology and biophysics, statistics and actuarial sciences, biostatics, and biomedical engineering. In addition, other investigators at Washington University and members of the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Study are involved in this project.
Read about previous UI glaucoma research at http://www.news-releases.uiowa.edu/2008/February/021508glaucoma_gene.html.
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