NEWS | July 16, 1996

OPHTHALMOLOGISTS RECEIVE GRANT TO PREVENT BLINDNESS

(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)

John L. Keltner, professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center, has received a $100,000 grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) to support clinical and basic research studies into the causes, treatment and prevention of blinding diseases.

The voluntary organization, which has awarded more than $900,000 to UC Davis, has had a vital impact on several key research projects conducted at the UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center.

Researchers continue to make progress in understanding the underlying cause of eye disease. Ophthalmology professor Leonard Hjemeland and associate professor Lawrence Morse, for example, are working on the underlying biology of fibroblast growth factors, small proteins that act at very low concentrations as signals between cells. By virtue of their ability to cause new blood vessels to grow, these proteins are an important focus of research in diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and other blinding eye diseases in which blood vessel growth is disturbed. Assistant professor James Handa also is working to correlate the early events in age-related macular degeneration with the origin and development of the disease.

Corneal physicians Mark Mannis and Ivan Schwab continue to develop the use of defensins in the eye, which may open a whole new era of antibiotic treatments for external eye infections. The physician researchers also are conducting a masked clinical trial of CT-112, an aldose reductase inhibitor for the treatment of diabetic epitheliopathy, a serious cause of rapid loss of vision in diabetics.

Keltner and visual psychophysicist Chris Johnson are studying the results of automated visual field testing at the UC Davis Visual Field Reading Center to assess the effectiveness of various treatment regimes on optic neuritis, an inflammatory disease of the optic nerve. The researchers recently published the results of the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial, which showed that treating patients with intravenous methylprednisolone delayed the onset of multiple sclerosis symptoms by two years.

The researchers also are using the Visual Field Reading Center for the Ocular Hypertension Treatment Trial, a multi-million dollar collaborative trial sponsored by the National Eye Institute. This trial is designed to study the efficacy of treating ocular hypertension, which often precedes the development of glaucoma, the number one treatable blinding eye disease in the United States. The aim is to see if the treatment can prevent or delay the onset of glaucoma.

Keltner and assistant professor of ophthalmology Charles Thirkill continue to make progress in their investigation of cancer-associated retinopathy. Glaucoma specialist James Brandt, in collaboration with Roy Curry and Martha O’Donnell of the Department of Human Physiology, continue working on the basic mechanisms in glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States today, and Chris Johnson continues to develop techniques for the early detection of this devastating disease.

"Research funds from the Research to Prevent Blindness are very important to ensure that researchers can continue to investigate the causes and treatment of blinding eye disease," said Keltner.


 

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