News

Dr. D'Amore to helm the Howe Lab


Joan W. Miller, M.D., Chief and Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology has announced the appointment of Schepens Director of Research, Patricia A. D’Amore, Ph.D. as the Director of the Howe Laboratory and Associate Chief of Basic and Translational Research at Mass. Eye and Ear, both effective July 1, 2014.

patricia damore4

“Knowing that we needed a highly accomplished and gifted scientist, mentor and administrator to succeed Dr. Richard Masland, I couldn’t be more pleased that Patricia D’Amore will be at the helm of the Howe Laboratory and serve as Associate Chief of Ophthalmology Basic and Translational Research.” Dr. Miller stated in making her announcement.

In addition to being the Director of Research at Schepens, Dr. D’Amore is the Charles L. Schepens Professor of Ophthalmology and a Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. She is the Ophthalmology Vice Chair of Basic Research and Co-director of the AMD Center of Excellence at HMS, and Senior Scientist and Ankeny Scholar of Retinal Molecular Biology at Schepens. All of these appointments and capacities will continue, going forward, while she folds in the new Howe and Associate Chief roles.

Dr. D’Amore brings three decades of leadership and scientific accomplishment to her new role. Among her new responsibilities, Dr. D’Amore will work with Dr. Miller and the research leadership and the investigators of the Howe Laboratory in the administrative oversight, grant and operational processes, and strategic recruitment and growth of the Laboratory. She will continue to integrate Mass. Eye and Ear and Schepens activities, participate in the development and implementation of a strategic vision for the postdoc experience at Mass. Eye and Ear, and further develop the faculty mentoring program.

Dr. Miller recognized Dr. D’Amore’s exceptional qualities as a standout mentor and role model, and her long-demonstrated passion and commitment to education, stating “… she possesses a remarkable and salient ability to communicate technical and complex research to a variety of audiences, and strives to ensure her trainees have the requisite depth of knowledge and leadership capabilities to push the boundaries of future scientific advancements. More than 50 pre-doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows have benefited from Pat’s extraordinary coaching. Many have gone on to become leading experts in the field: seven are full Professors. Not surprisingly, Pat was honored in 2006 with the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award and, in 2013, received the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard University.”

To read more about Dr. D’Amore, please click here...

ARVO 2015 Achievement Awards


The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO)  announced the 2015 Achievement Awards at the annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. Two Institute scientists are among the awardees.


Dr Joan W. Miller and Dr Patricia A. D'AmorePatricia A. D'Amore, PhD has been selected to receive the Proctor Medal and Joan W. Miller, MD has been awarded the Mildred Weisenfeld Award for Excellence in Ophthalmology.

Dr. Miller is Chief of Ophthalmology, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital; Henry Willard Williams Professor of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School. 
The Weisenfeld Award is presented to an individual in recognition of distinguished scholarly contributions to the clinical practice of ophthalmology. It was established as a tribute to Mildred Weisenfeld's outstanding contributions to the field, which include the founding of Fight for Sight in 1946.  

An internationally recognized expert in the field of angiogenesis, Dr. D'Amore is the Director of Research at Schepens, as well as the Charles L. Schepens Professor of Ophthalmology and Professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School. Established in 1949, The Proctor Medal honor's Dr. Francis I. Proctor, an ophthalmologist who conducted extensive research on the etiology and treatment of trachoma. This prestigious award honors outstanding research in the basic or clinical sciences as applied to ophthalmology. This was the first ophthalmology-related award to honor non-clinicians in the field.

At the 2015 ARVO Annual Meeting in Denver, Dr. D'Amore will present the Proctor Award Lecture and Dr. Miller will present the Weisenfeld Award Lecture.

 

Patricia A DAmore PhD MBA FARVO in labSchepens Director of Research, Dr. Patricia A. D'Amore has been selected to receive a 2013 Mentorship Award from Women in Ophthalmology (WIOWomen in Ophthalmology (WIO) and the American Medical Association Women Physicians Sector.

This award recognizes her sustained career commitment to mentoring and the significant impact she has had on her mentees’ careers, including their contributions to advancing research and patient care in the field of ophthalmology. 

WIO values mentorship as one of the most important determinants of a successful career, and has created this award to recognize outstanding mentors in the ophthalmology community. The award is based on the training experiences and success of the nominee’s mentees, not the mentor’s personal career achievements. WIO defines mentoring as "the process of guiding, supporting, and promoting the training and career development of others".

WIO announced Dr. D'Amores award through the American Medical Association in September, Women in Medicine Month.

Drivers with Hemaniopia Fail to Detect Pedestrians at Intersections

Findings described in the current issue of IOVS

 

driving simulator_Bowers-Peli_web

A diagnosis of hemianopia, or blindness in one half of the visual field in both eyes as the result of strokes, tumors or trauma often means the end of driving. In about half of the states in the United States and in many other countries, driving with hemianopia is prohibited.



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Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR)

Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR)

is a blinding retinal condition. It involves the formation of pathological membranes, which dislodge the retina and thereby compromises an individual's ability to see. PVR occurs in a small subset of patients with retinal detachment, and it may even occur after surgery to correct a damaged (torn or perforated) retina that was detached from the back wall of the eye.

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Visual System Can Retain Considerable Plasticity, Even After Extended Early Blindness

Findings described in the PNAS Early Edition

 

an abstract painting to depict the development of pattern vision following early and extended blindness

Pictured are simulated views of an abstract painting to depict the development of pattern vision following early and extended blindness. Working with children who gained sight after several years of early onset blindness, Kalia et al. found that they had poor spatial resolution and impoverished contrast perception immediately after cataract surgery. This is simulated in the left panel. Follow-up assessments six months later revealed surprising enhancement of contrast sensitivity. The middle panel depicts the substantial improvements in perceptual quality this corresponds to. The right panel shows the original painting. These findings suggest that the visual system retains considerable plasticity beyond the early years believed to be critical for normal development. The painting (acrylics on canvas) was created by a child who gained sight after extended blindness.
(Image is courtesy of Luis Lesmes, Michael Dorr, Peter Bex, Amy Kalia, & Pawan Sinha)


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Schepens Eye Research Institute Milestones for 2013

Highlights of scientific achievements

 

Patricia A DAmore PhD MBA FARVO in lab

Schepens Eye Research Institute ushers in the New Year with highlights of faculty accomplishment during the previous twelve months.

In announcing the print and web scientific milestone initiative, Schepens Director of Research, Dr. Patricia A. D'Amore (pictured at left) stated: "As we finish up 2013 and move into 2014 it is an ideal time to recap some of the accomplishments of our colleagues and you will find a sampling below. Congratulations to all on their achievements and keep up the good work!"

 

 

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Lotfi Merabet, O.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., optometrist and scientist, was a featured speaker at the Dec. 6 Challenges Workshop at MIT.

EF bocelli and lotfi

 

 

Hosted by the Andrea Bocelli Foundation (ABF), the day-long event highlighted cutting-edge research that can produce innovative solutions to help visually impaired people increase their independence and social inclusion. World-renowned tenor and songwriter Andrea Bocelli, who lost his eyesight at the age of 12, established the ABF in 2011 and created the ABF Challenges Program to promote scientific and technological research. 

 

 

 

 

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Researchers Show Peripheral Prism Glasses to be a Simple, Inexpensive Rehabilitation Tool

Findings described in Nov. 7 issue of JAMA Ophthalmology

Contact: Mary Leach 
(617) 573-4170

BOSTON (Nov. 7, 2013) -- More than a million Americans suffer from hemianopia, or blindness in one half of the visual field in both eyes as the result of strokes, tumors or trauma. People with hemianopia frequently bump into walls, trip over objects, or walk into people on the side where the visual field is missing.

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Patricia A DAmore PhD MBA FARVO in labSchepens Director of Research, Dr. Patricia A. D'Amore has been selected to receive a 2013 Mentorship Award from Women in Ophthalmology (WIOWomen in Ophthalmology (WIO) and the American Medical Association Women Physicians Sector.

This award recognizes her sustained career commitment to mentoring and the significant impact she has had on her mentees’ careers, including their contributions to advancing research and patient care in the field of ophthalmology. 

WIO values mentorship as one of the most important determinants of a successful career, and has created this award to recognize outstanding mentors in the ophthalmology community. The award is based on the training experiences and success of the nominee’s mentees, not the mentor’s personal career achievements. WIO defines mentoring as "the process of guiding, supporting, and promoting the training and career development of others".

WIO announced Dr. D'Amores award through the American Medical Association in September, Women in Medicine Month.

merabetThe human visual system research of Lotfi B. Merabet, O.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. is the focus of an article in International Innovation, a leading global dissemination resource for the scientific, technological and research communities.

 

In addition to being an Assistant Scientist at Schepens, Dr. Merabet is the Director of the Laboratory for Visual Neuroplasticity at Mass. Eye and Ear and an Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School.

 

Click here to download a .pdf of the full article...

Dr. Patricia A. D'Amore Recipient of the Everett Mendelsohn Award For Excellence in Mentoring

For the past fifteen years, The Graduate Student Council has given the Everett Mendelsohn Award For Excellence in Mentoring presented this year to Dr. Patricia A. D’Amore at a ceremony on April 10, 2013.  Named for Everett I. Mendelsohn, Professor of the History of Science, Emeritus, the Award is given to celebrate “the essential nature of strong mentoring at the graduate level – and the faculty who go out of their way to mentor GSAS students professionally, academically, and personally in ways large and small.”

Dr. Patricia A. D'Amore Recipient of the Everett Mendelsohn Award For Excellence in Mentoring

Pictured above (l-r): Cindy Windhol, Jinling Yang, Dr. Patricia D’Amore, Allen Tseng, Cammi Valdez, and Wendy Chao.

Dr. D’Amore is the Director of Research for the Schepens Eye Research Institute/Mass. Eye and Ear, and the Charles L. Schepens Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. She has mentored more than fifty-eight trainees in her career, nineteen of which are graduate students. A recipient of numerous honors and awards, she also received the A. Clifford Barger Excellence in Mentoring Award in 2006. 

Sumit Bhattacharya, PhDDr. Sumit Bhattacharya, research scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear, was recently awarded the Fight for Sight postdoctoral award grant. The Fight for Sight Foundation awarded Bhattacharya $20,000 for his project ‘Mechanism of Thrombospondin-1 Interaction with Cholinergic and Purinergic Neural Inputs in a Murine Model of Sjogren’s Syndrome.’

The research will explore the progression of dry eye disease, one of the most common eye diseases, which can lead to debilitating symptoms that affect individuals’ quality of life. The study will not only help address the underlying cause of dry eye but will also be instrumental in construction of novel therapeutic approaches for treatment of the disease. Dry eye and associated ocular surface diseases affect over forty million Americans. Up to this point, current treatments and therapies for dry eye have been limited.

About Schepens Eye Research Institute, Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.  After uniting with Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear in Boston became the world's largest vision and hearing research center, offering hope and healing to patients everywhere through discovery and innovation.  Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships.  Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex.  U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals Survey” has consistently ranked the Mass. Eye and Ear Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology as one of the top five in the nation.


About Fight for Sight

Mildred Weisenfeld, who lost her vision to retinitis pigmentosa, founded Fight for Sight, the first organization in the United States to promote eye research. Since 1946, Fight for Sight has supported and inspired eye and vision research by funding promising scientists early in their careers. FFS has granted over $20 million and funded more than 3,000 research grants which have contributed directly or indirectly to major advances in ophthalmology and vision research, including development of gene therapies, the intraocular lens (IOL), donor cornea preservation, glaucoma therapies, various uses of ophthalmic lasers, and stem cell research.

Schepens research scientist Matt Bronstad, PhD recently received a grant from the Knights Templar for his project, “Is anomalous retinal correspondence compensatory to hemianopia and can it be reinstated after strabismus surgery?”

Those attending the award ceremony included (above, l-r): Sir Knight George A. Sarafinas, Grand Warder of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar, Sir Knight Vincent J. Faraci, Grand Commander for the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar for Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Dr. Matt Bronstad, and Thomas X. Tsirimokos, Right Eminent Department Commander for the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, U.S.

 
Hemianopia is loss of one half of the visual field in both eyes. In children may be caused by head trauma, followed by brain tumor and stroke. Curiously, strabismus (mis-alignment of the eyes) in children co-occurs with hemianopia more commonly than expected. It is possible that strabismus develops to compensate for hemianopia, if the deviating eye points into the area of field loss, this may expand a child’s visual field.
 
However, it isn’t known whether the expanded visual field offers any advantage, as it may be suppressed by the dominant eye. If the expansion is useful, then there is a difficult trade-off between the usefulness of expansion for mobility and the many benefits of having the eyes aligned surgically. We want to help children have their cake, and eat it too, by providing postsurgical optical correction to reinstate their former field expansion while preserving the appearance of straightened eyes. 

The Knights Templar is a fraternal organization that was founded in the 11th century. Originally, the Knights Templar were laymen who protected and defended travelers to Jerusalem. These men took vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and were renowned for their fierceness and courage in battle. Today, the Knights Templar display their courage and goodwill in other ways. They organize fund-raising activities such as breakfasts, dinners, dances, and flea markets. They raise millions of dollars for medical research and educational assistance. The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc., was founded in 1956, and since its inception, over $135 Million has been spent on research, patient care and education. 

Topical Use of Arthritis Drug Provides Relief for Dry Eye Disease

Research Study Online in JAMA Ophthalmology May Herald New Era of New Highly Targeted Molecular Treatment for Common Condition

Dr. Reza Dana


Dry eye disease (DED) is a common condition that causes discomfort, visual disturbance and potentially damaging ocular surface inflammation that greatly impacts a person’s quality of life. An estimated nine million people in the United State alone suffer from significant DED; millions more may have milder forms or experience discomfort when exposed to low humidity or contact lens use. DED, the most common reason people visit ophthalmologists, is estimated to cost $55 billion in annual direct and indirect costs to society in the nation alone.

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New Discoveries from Researchers at Mass. Eye and Ear and University of Calgary Hold Promise for Treatments for a Range of Women’s Health Issues

Conditions include Dry Eye Disease, Xerostomia (Dry Mouth), Interstitial Cystitis (Bladdar Inflammation) and Postmenopausal Vaginal Atrophy

Dr David SullivanBoston (April 18, 2013) – Natural lubricants play an important role in health, including a well-known effect to help prevent osteoarthritis in knee and ankle joints. However, much is still unknown about their role and function in other areas of the body. Researchers for the first time have discovered that the surface of the eye produces “lubricin,” the same substance that protects the joints, and have explained its role in this sensory organ. These findings provide new hope for the millions suffering from dry eye disease and complications from contact lens wear and refractive surgery. Dry eye disease is one of the most frequent causes of patient visits to eye care practitioners and occurs predominantly in women.

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Study shows Ranibizumab may prevent common, serious complication of retinal detachment

Research online, to be published in the May 2013 issue of American Journal of Pathology

BOSTON (April 9, 2013) – Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR), or the formation of scar tissue in the eye, is a serious, sight-threatening complication in people recovering from surgical repair of retinal detachment. PVR is difficult to predict, lacks effective treatment options, and substantially reduces an individual’s quality of life. Each year 55,000 people are at risk for developing PVR in the United States alone.

A new study carried out by scientists from The Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear and the Department of Ophthalmology, Harvard Medical School, and published on The American Journal of Pathology website and scheduled for the May 2013 print edition, suggests that Ranibizumab, an anti-VEGF-A monoclonal antibody fragment, is a potential prophylaxis for PVR.

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The Visual System as Economist: Visual Adaptation Studied by Salk and Schepens Scientists

April 1, 2013 (Medical Xpress) — It has long been held that in a new environment, visual adaptation should improve visual performance. However, evidence has contradicted this expectation: Adaptation sometimes not only decreases sensitivity for the adapting stimuli, but can also change sensitivity for stimuli very different from the adapting ones.

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Ula V. Jurkunas, M.D. is awarded an Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Grant for 2013

Ula V. Jurkunas, M.D.Dr. Patricia A. D’Amore, Director of Research at Schepens Eye Research Institute and Charles L. Schepens  Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School  has announced that Institute scientist Ula V. Jurkunas, M.D. is a recipient of the Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Grant for 2013. The award is intended to encourage and promote the early career development of clinicians and scientists entering research in vision science and ophthalmology.

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Institute scientist Dr. Peter Bex has been selected by Harvard Medical School for a Young Mentor Award

Dr. Peter Bex (second from right) with members of his laboratory staff

Dr. Patricia A. D'Amore, Director of Research at Schepens Eye Research Institute, has announced that Peter J. Bex, PhD has been selected as a recipient of a  2012-2013  Harvard Medical School Young Mentor Award.

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Joan W. Miller, MD, FARVO Selected to Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis

Boston (Feb. 10, 2013)--Joan Whitten Miller, M.D.,
Henry Willard Williams Professor of Ophthalmology and Chair of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, and Chief of Ophthalmology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital, has been elected to the Academia Ophthalmologica Internationalis (AOI).  The AOI is regarded as the most prestigious international academic organization in ophthalmology with an emeritus and active membership that spans 33 countries. Dr. Miller is only the second American woman to be elected to the 38-year-old organization, which limits active membership to 70 individuals.

As a university-centered organization, the AOI is “committed to excellence in education, research and culturally appropriate medical services to preserve and restore vision for people of the world.”  The AOI counts among its membership some of the most acclaimed ophthalmologists worldwide, including: David W. Parke II, MD, President of the American Academy of Ophthalmology; Martine J. Jager, MD, past President of the Association for Vision in Research and Ophthalmology; Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, Board of Directors Chair of the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation; and Paul R. Lichter, MD, MS, current AOI President.

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Mass. Eye and Ear’s Dr. Janey Wiggs is Among Winners of NEI Competition for Audacious Ideas in Vision Research

Boston (Feb. 11, 2013) -- Massachusetts Eye and Ear ophthalmologist and eye researcher Janey L. Wiggs, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Chief of Ophthalmology Clinical Research and Associate Director of the Ocular Genomics Institute at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary/Harvard Medical School, is one of 10 winners of the National Eye Institute’s Audacious Goals challenge.  The challenge was a nationwide competition that invited compelling ideas to advance vision science, and garnered a pool of nearly 500 entries.  Each winner receives a $3,000 prize plus travel expenses to attend the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, Feb. 24-26, 2013, at the Bolger Conference Center in Potomac, Md. The National Eye Institute (NEI) is a branch of the federal National Institutes of Health. Dr. Wiggs is the Harvard Medical School (HMS) Paul A. Chandler Associate Professor of Ophthalmology and a resident of Lexington, Mass.

Dr. Wiggs’ winning submission, entitled “Vision BioBank — A Network of Ocular Phenotyping Centers Using Genomic and Epidemiologic Data to Promote Personalized Ophthalmology,” proposes to create a network of biobanks that collect corresponding phenotype (physical characteristics) and genotype (genetic) data on people with certain eye diseases. These biobanks could be used for a wide range of studies, including the development of sensitive and specific gene tests that could accurately determine a person’s risk for such diseases, as well as their likely response to certain therapies.

“It would be fantastic if sensitive and specific gene tests could be used to accurately determine disease risk and therapeutic response for common, complex, blinding diseases such as glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and uveitis.  Imagine that an eye exam begins with a report listing disease risks and effective therapies for each patient,” said Dr. Wiggs. “Ultimately, it will be possible to identify patients at risk for blinding disease and employ effective therapeutic strategies before irreversible vision loss occurs, making it possible to maintain lifelong useful sight.”

Joan W. Miller, MD, FARVO, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Chief of Ophthalmology at Mass. Eye and Ear and Mass General Hospital, agreed. “Dr. Wiggs’ multi-institutional ‘Vision BioBank’ directly addresses the next critical phase in the patient care revolution – that is, to develop a broad, deep and robust repository of patient population data so researchers around the globe can more effectively unravel genotype-phenotype connections. With this data in hand, we can more rapidly identify target pathways and develop pharmacologic therapies that mitigate or reverse the progression of disease.”

John Fernandez, Mass. Eye and Ear President and CEO offered, “It’s gratifying to see Dr. Wiggs among the NEI’s Audacious Goals winners. The honor speaks to her vision as a researcher and dedication to improving treatment and care for patients with eye diseases, not only at Mass. Eye and Ear, but also around the world.  Dr. Wiggs is one of many visionary researchers at Mass. Eye and Ear working to harness the power of genetic research to move us closer to our goal of curing blinding diseases.”

A graduate of the Mass. Eye and Ear/Harvard Medical School 2011 ophthalmology residency program, Rajesh Rao, M.D., Ph.D., was also among the 10 selected, for his proposal “An Audacious Goal: Reprogramming the Retina.” The objective of his project would be to directly reprogram easy-to-isolate skin or blood cells to retinal cells using gene therapy and other techniques to enable repair strategies for degenerative retinal diseases. Dr. Rao is the youngest recipient and only trainee to be selected an Audacious Goals winner.  He is currently a vitreoretinal fellow at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and The Retina Institute, St. Louis, Mo.

“The Audacious Goals initiative was born out of the NEI strategic planning process, however it is much more than a standard strategic planning exercise,” said Paul A. Sieving, M.D., Ph.D., NEI director. “We are envisioning the future. When we look back 10 to 12 years from now, what do we want to have accomplished? The Audacious Goals initiative will help propel us into that future.”

The NEI Challenge to Identify Audacious Goals in Vision Research and Blindness Rehabilitation is part of a government-wide effort to bring the best ideas and top talent to bear on our nation’s most pressing challenges. The challenge sought ideas that support the NEI mission to conduct and support research and other programs aimed at reducing the burden of vision disorders and disease worldwide. Prize competition entries were solicited not only from experts in vision research but from anyone in the private, government, and nonprofit sectors, including scientists, engineers, health care providers, inventors, and entrepreneurs, as well as the general public. Entries were de-identified and reviewed by experts on the basis of relevance to the NEI mission and whether the ideas are bold, daring, unconventional, or exceptionally innovative; they also were required to be broad in scope and potentially attainable within about 10 years.

Within a three-month period, 476 entries were submitted from people across the United States, including Puerto Rico. Topics ranged from regenerative medicine and stem cells to neuroscience, genetics, drug development, and artificial vision and prosthetics.

“We didn’t know what to expect when we issued this challenge,” said Richard S. Fisher, Ph.D., director of NEI’s Office of Program Planning and Analysis, which is spearheading the initiative. “Surprisingly, nearly half of the submissions we received came from people who had never been funded by NIH, which demonstrated that we captured the attention of a wide audience throughout the U.S. We invited anyone with an interest in vision research to submit an idea that began with the phrase, ‘It would be fantastic if…’ and in fact, we received many truly audacious ideas.”

During the judging process, more than 80 experts in the vision community helped narrow the field to 81 final candidates. A federal panel consisting of 13 clinicians and scientists then selected the winning ideas.

The winners have been invited to present their ideas later this month at the NEI Audacious Goals Development Meeting, which will include about 200 vision researchers, patient advocates, ophthalmologists, and optometrists from the U.S. and abroad. The selected ideas will be discussed intensively for further expansion, development, and refinement. Following the meeting, NEI staff and members of the National Advisory Eye Council will finalize and publish a set of the most compelling audacious goals for the institute and the broader vision research community to pursue over the next decade.

“The selection of the winning entries marks the true starting point for NEI’s Audacious Goals initiative,” said Dr. Fisher. “We are now at the point where some of the world’s most prominent vision experts can discuss these ideas in-depth, establish a set of audacious goals, and weigh in on how we can realize those goals.”

For more information, visit the Audacious Goals website at http://www.nei.nih.gov/challenge.

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear

Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.  After uniting with Schepens Eye Research Institute in 2011, Mass. Eye and Ear became the world's largest vision and hearing research center, offering hope and healing to patients everywhere through discovery and innovation.  Based in Boston, Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships.  Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex.  U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals Survey” has consistently ranked the Mass. Eye and Ear Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology as top five in the nation.  For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.

About the National Eye Institute: The National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, leads the federal government's research on the visual system and eye diseases. NEI supports basic and clinical science programs that result in the development of sight-saving treatments. For more information, visit http://www.nei.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit http://www.nih.gov.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Massachusetts Eye and Ear Public Affairs Office, 617-573-3341

Treating Eye Diseases with Anti-VEGF Therapies May Have Side Effects

Boston (Jan. 22, 2013)

A new Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS) article reveals that increasingly aggressive therapies that block VEGF could cause damage in treating eye diseases. Scientists discovered inhibiting anti-VEGF might have a harmful effect on the tissue responsible for producing the fluid that bathes the eye, medically termed the ciliary body.

“Very little is known about the factors that regulate the integrity and function of this tissue [the ciliary body] in the adult,” said author Patricia A. D’Amore, Ph.D., (above) of Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear. “Our finding indicates that VEGF-A is at least one of the molecules that play a role in keeping the ciliary body healthy and functioning properly.”

In the study, Expression and role of VEGF-A in the Ciliary Body, investigators simulated the VEGF-A activity in adult mice and found that blocking the protein decreased the intraocular pressure, an unexpected side effect that impaired the ciliary body.

Several anti-VEGF-A therapies are currently being widely and successfully used for the treatment of eye diseases like wet macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema and retinopathy of prematurity. D’Amore agrees that there is no evidence to indicate that the manner in which these drugs are being administered interferes with the ciliary body. “However, there is a move toward developing methods to continuously deliver anti-VEGF to the eye and to have drugs that are more potent inhibitors of VEGF,” she said. “I would be concerned that more aggressive VEGF inhibition in the eye would have deleterious effects on the ciliary body.”

The research team’s investigation of anti-VEGF-A on the ciliary body was the result of prior studies that found blocking VEGF can lead to the degeneration of capillary beds, particularly capillaries that have specializations called fenestrations like the ones found in the ciliary body. These include whole body VEGF blockade in anti-cancer therapies that damage the capillaries of the kidney and the effect anti-VEGF has had on the thyroid function in people treated locally for brain tumors.

The results of the new IOVS study suggest further research, including clinical trials, should be considered. “I am hoping that revealing the possible negative side effects of VEGF inhibition in the eye will motivate research into new ways to block edema and blood vessel growth in the eye that does not require continuous inhibition of intraocular VEGF,” said D’Amore.

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear:

Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck. After uniting with Schepens Eye Research Institute in 2011, Mass. Eye and Ear in Boston became the world's largest vision and hearing research center, offering hope and healing to patients everywhere through discovery and innovation. Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships. Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex. U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals Survey” has consistently ranked the Mass. Eye and Ear Departments of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology as top five in the nation. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.

About IOVS:

The ARVO peer-reviewed journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (IOVS) publishes results from original hypothesis-based clinical and laboratory research studies, as well as Reviews, Perspectives, and Special Issues. IOVS 2009 Impact Factor ranks No. 4 out of 45 among ophthalmology journals. The journal is online-only and articles are published daily.

About ARVO:

The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include more than 12,500 eye and vision researchers from over 80 countries. ARVO encourages and assists research, training, publication and knowledge-sharing in vision and ophthalmology.

Source: Association for Research and Vision in Ophthalmology (ARVO) / Journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science (IOVS).

Development of New Cornea Endothelial Cell Lines Provides Powerful Tool For Understanding Corneal Cell Biology

Dr. Ula JurkunasBoston (Dec. 26, 2012)  — Human corneal endothelial cells (HCEnCs) form a monolayer of hexagonal cells whose main function is to maintain corneal clarity by regulating corneal hydration. Cell loss due to aging or corneal endothelial disorders, such as Fuchs dystrophy, can lead to cornea edema and blindness, resulting in the need for cornea transplants.

Studying human corneal endothelium has been difficult for cell biologists because limited cellular model systems exist and have significant drawbacks. The major drawback is that HCEnC cells do not divide and there is a limited source of these cells both for patient transplantation and for study in the laboratory. This field of study is now easier.

Scientists from the Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear, have developed of HCENC-21 and HCEnC-21T, two novel model systems for human corneal endothelium. Their findings, Telomerase Immortalization of Human Corneal Endothelial Cells Yield Functional Hexagonal Monolayers, are online in the PLOS ONE.

A research team led by Ula V. Jurkunas, M.D., developed first-of their kind model systems for human corneal endothelium.

“These models mimic very well the critical characteristics and functionalities known from the tissue in the eye,” Dr. Jurkunas said. “They also fulfill essential technical requirements, e.g. indefinite number of and a high rate of cell division, to be a powerful tool. They will enable cell biologists to more reliably study human corneal endothelium in health and disease. The ability to enhance HCEnC cell self renewal and growth opens a new window of development of novel regenerative therapies for corneal swelling, hopefully reducing the need for corneal transplantation in the future.”

A full description of the process used and names and affiliations of the full research team are available here.

 

 

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