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2011 Research Grants

The Glaucoma Research Foundation provides seed money for creative pilot research projects that hold promise.

The National Institutes of Health and large companies may pass over the young researcher with an innovative idea, if there is no precedent.

Armed with evidence made possible by our Shaffer Grants, scientists can often secure the major funding necessary to bring their ideas to fruition.

We consider it vital to invest funds in new high-impact research that may lead to major government and philanthropic support. Following is a summary of projects we are currently funding.

Frank Stein and Paul S. May Glaucoma Research Grants

All grants are in the amount of $40,000.

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William H. Baldridge, PhD, Dalhousie University, Halifax, NS Canada

Calcium-permeable AMPA receptors and retinal ganglion cell death during glaucoma.
Dr. Baldridge’s project will examine the expression of calcium- permeable AMPA receptors. Increased expression of calcium- permeable AMPA receptors by retinal ganglion cells during glaucoma could provide a therapeutic target to prevent or delay RGC death, possibly reducing the rate or extent of vision loss in glaucoma patients.

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Hani Levkovitch-Verbin, MD, MPA, Goldschleger Eye Institute, Tel Hashomer, Israel

Age-related increased vulnerability of retinal ganglion cells to elevated IOP- mechanism and neuroprotection.
Dr. Levkovitch-Verbin’s study will evaluate whether pro-survival genes and proteins are not activated as necessary in aging glaucomatous eyes, resulting in enhanced optic nerve damage with age. The neuroprotective effects of minocycline and rasagiline, two drugs known to induce activation of pro-survival factors, will also be evaluated.

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Keith R. Martin, PhD, Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Pre-clinical assessment of human retinal ganglion cell neuroprotection by human stem cells: efficacy and mechanism.
The goal of Dr. Martin is to determine whether neuronal death in human retina can be reduced by treatment with human stem cells and to understand how this works. The pre-clincial demonstration that human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSC) treatment can reduce human retinal neuronal death, coupled with the recent commercial invention of a cell-delivery device for the eye, will hopefully facilitate the development of a new therapy to preserve sight in glaucoma.

The 2011 Shaffer Grants

All grants are in the amount of $40,000.

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Eduardo J. Chichilnisky, PhD, The Salk Institute, La Jolla, CA

Physiological changes and loss of distinct ganglion cell types in glaucoma.
The goal of Dr. Chichilnisky’s project is to understand which retinal ganglion cell types undergo changes and die first in glaucoma. This may be crucial for understanding the mechanisms underlying the disease, and developing clinical tests for early diagnosis.

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Gareth R. Howell, PhD, The Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, ME

Understanding the Mechanisms of Wlds-mediated Protection in Glaucoma.
Dr. Howell proposes to fully investigate the mechanism by which a spontaneous mutation (Wallerian degeneration slow, Wlds) prevents retinal ganglion cell demise in glaucoma and will provide candidate genes and biological processes that may be mediating the Wlds-based protection. This work has the potential to lead to the development of improved therapies for human glaucoma.

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Janice Vranka, PhD, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR

Versican As Primary Contributor to Aqueous Humor Outflow Resistance.
Dr. Vranka’s project will study Versican, a large proteoglycan that is known to interact with many other proteins also present in the trabecular meshwork, which is thought to be the primary contributor to outflow resistance. Understanding of the overall structure and organization of the outflow resistance, which directly affects the intraocular pressure system will help to enable the development of better treatments to reduce pressure for POAG patients.

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Shunbin Xu, MD, PhD, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, IL

MicroRNAs in retinal ganglion cells and glaucomatous neurodegeneration.
Dr. Xu aims to identify miRNAs in retinal ganglion cells that may cause or contribute to the malfunction and death of retinal ganglion cells, leading to glaucoma. This research will provide one of the first insights into the roles of miRNAs in glaucoma and will open numerous new directions of glaucoma research and therapies.

Last reviewed on October 29, 2017

This article appeared in the May 2011 issue of Gleams.

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