Two Case Western Reserve Researchers Receive Vision Grants from Global Eye Bank Organization

Two Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers have received grants totaling $40,000 from Ann Arbor-based Eversight, a global nonprofit network of eye banks. The CWRU projects are aimed at helping glaucoma patients and those with Fuchs’ endothelial corneal dystrophy. Eversight recovers, prepares and distributes corneal tissue for transplantation globally. It’s Center for Eye & Vision Research conducts investigations and funds academic research to find cures for all blinding diseases.

Sudha K. Iyengar, PhD and Padmanabhan Pattabiraman, PhD were among 11 national recipients of funding for research projects that can help prevent blindness and improve deteriorating eyesight.

Iyengar’s affiliations in the School of Medicine include the departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. She will receive $20,000 to identify genomic biomarkers (measurable indicators) for Fuchs’ (“fooks”) endothelial corneal dystrophy. This will help clarify why some people have a higher risk of the disease as well as potentially aid eye banks in identifying appropriate donor tissue for cornea transplants.

Fuchs causes swelling of the cornea, resulting in reduced ability to see details, visual haloes, and sensitivity to bright lights. The disease, which affects about five percent of people over the age of 40 years in the United States, can have a genetic cause, but it also can occur in patients with no family history of the disease. In the early stages, vision often can be improved by treatment with eye drops. As the disease progresses, surgical intervention or a cornea transplant may be needed.

Pattabiraman, a research scientist in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, was awarded $20,000 to study primary open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of glaucoma in the United States, affecting one percent of the population. The disease has no symptoms, such as pain or corneal swelling, making diagnosis difficult until the later stages, when vision declines. It is typified by a buildup of protein compounds that block the conduit which drains fluid from the eye. If left untreated, blindness may result.

Pattabiraman will assess the biological makeup of the protein deposits using liquid chromatography, a technique for separating complex mixtures, and mass spectroscopy, which identifies chemicals in a substance by their mass and charge. After identifying the components of the blocking proteins, Pattabiraman will compare glaucoma patients with similar subjects without the disease, contributing to a clearer understanding of how and why the material aggregates in some patients and not in others.

Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the School of Medicine.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report's"Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine is affiliated with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002.

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