Ophthalmologists at the UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center have received a $100,000 grant from Research to Prevent Blindness to support clinical and basic research studies into the causes, treatment and prevention of blinding diseases.
The voluntary organization, which has awarded more than $700,000 to UC Davis and over $126 million to medical institutions throughout the United States, has had a vital impact on several key research projects conducted at UC Davis Medical Center.
“The recent discovery of the basic mechanisms underlying glaucoma by ophthalmologist James Brandt and colleagues represents a major step forward in our understanding of glaucoma,” said John L. Keltner, chair of the department of ophthalmology. “We also have made great strides in the early detection of glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States. With many of today’s advances based on basic research studies, RPB funds are crucial to providing a wellspring from which future treatments flow.”
One of the basic research projects that has evolved to the clinical trial stage includes the use of aldose reductase inhibitors for the treatment of diabetic epitheliopathy, a serious cause of rapid loss of vision in diabetics. Other studies in the future-treatment pipeline include the use of defensins in the eye, which may open up a whole new era of antibiotic treatments for external eye infections, and fibroblast growth factors in diabetic eye research and cancer associated retinopathy.
As a leading visual research center, the department is also actively involved in multi-million dollar collaborative trials sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Keltner and Chris A. Johnson, professor of ophthalmology, head the Visual Field Reading Center, a portion of a multicenter clinical trial funded by the National Eye Institute aimed at identifying better treatments for a variety of eye diseases. As part of the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Trial currently in progress, the researchers analyze several thousand visual fields annually sent in by some 26 clinical centers throughout the United States.
“Ongoing research is the best hope for sight-threatening disorders for which there is no effective treatment,” said Keltner. “RPB funding helps us initiate pilot projects and test the feasibility of new treatments.”
RPB is the largest voluntary organization supporting eye research, providing research funds to 60 medical schools nationwide.