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ARVO 2015 Highlight: The National Eye Institute Invests $4 Million in Audacious-Goals Research

future of retinal researchThe National Eye Institute’s (NEI) establishment of its Audacious Goals in 2013 was a watershed moment in the drive to cure blinding retinal diseases. The mission of the program—to regenerate the neurons and neural connections in the eye and visual system—is synonymous with the Foundation’s mission to eradicate retinal diseases. Most important, it means that the NEI is making significant investments in research that will benefit people with retinal conditions, such as retinitis pigmentosa, Usher syndrome, Stargardt disease, and age-related macular degeneration.

At the ARVO annual meeting this year, I was delighted to learn the NEI announced $4 million in funding for five new retinal-imaging grants aimed at helping researchers understand how well new regenerative therapies—for example, transplanted stem cells—are working. The high-tech imaging systems being developed through this investment are essential to moving potential therapies into and through human studies. Keep in mind: These five projects are just the beginning for the Audacious Goals initiative. Several more significant investments are forthcoming.

As secretary for the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research, an organization advocating for NEI funding, I consider the Audacious Goals investments, such as those for the imaging grants, to be a major victory. Federally funded research is critical to the advancement of retinal-disease treatments and cures. While we at the Foundation fund a lot of outstanding research, the NEI’s impact on our overall progress is enormous. Together, we do so much more.

I am also very impressed with a new video that NEI presented at ARVO. It’s a three-and-a-half minute clip, which nicely captures, in simple terms: how the visual system works; what goes wrong in retinal diseases and other vision-related conditions; and the Audacious Goals program.

As a non-scientist, I’m always looking for resources that communicate scienctific details in lay terms, and I’m pleased the NEI has the audacity to make science easy to understand! I encourage you to watch it, and share it with anyone, especially non-technical friends who want a better grasp of the science behind vision and the retina.

In the meantime, stay tuned to Eye on the Cure and the Foundation’s website for more news about the NEI’s Audacious Goals program.


25 Responses to 'ARVO 2015 Highlight: The National Eye Institute Invests $4 Million in Audacious-Goals Research'

  1. barbara huber says:

    I am suffering with glaucoma with optic nerve damage. My vision is getting worse even tho’ I use the prescribed medication to keep pressure down. Please advise if I can be a candidate for stem cell therapy. I do not want to lose my vision and feeling desperate. Thank you. barbara

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Stem cell therapy is currently being evaluated for possible use in optic nerve damage. The research is slowly moving towards the clinic but will probably not be ready for clinical trials for a few more years. Dr. Dong Chen at Schepens’ Eye Institute is currently working in this area. To read more about his work, please see the following web link: http://www.schepens.harvard.edu/research-storychen/dong-feng-chen-md-phd/research-story.html

    • linda says:

      hi barbara i am so sorry for your loss of vision my husband has damaged optic nerve called N.A.I.O.N. we have been trying to find some solution, doctors say there is nothing but we will notgive up please let us know if u found anything that might help we will do the same for you thanks and good luck linda

  2. Gulshan aliraza says:

    dear Dr I am 43 year old women. I am suffering from retinitis pigmentosa currently I feel lose of side vision. I don’t wants to be isolated from world, kindly guide me for treatment and precautions

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Dear Gulshan, If you have not done so already, I highly recommend that you try to identify your disease gene/mutation. A molecular diagnosis is the most accurate diagnosis possible. Once you have identified the disease gene, you can scan the internet (Google or PubMed) to see what research is being done. If there is a gene therapy clinical trial being conducted on your gene, you will have a high likelihood of qualifying. For information on genetic testing, please see the following web link to download a PDF document: http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/genetic_testing_booklet_201311rev.pdf
      Whether you identify your disease gene or not, you should consider participating in FFB’s “My Retina Tracker”, a free registry that can help you find out about clinical trials that are recruiting for your specific disease. For more information on “My Retina Tracker” please see the following web link: https://www.myretinatracker.org/
      Finally, it might be helpful to periodically check the website: http://WWW.CLINICALTRIALS.GOV which is maintained by the National Institutes of Health and contains a searchable list of clinical trials for most known diseases. Each clinical trial listing will provide you with information on what the study is about, the requirements for participating and contact information.

  3. Mike says:

    Hi, I’m 57 and have ushers syndrome. Currently legally blind with significant hearing loss. Please let me know if I could be a candidate for gene therapy programs. I’m feeling more isolate from my family and friends every day. thank you, Mike.

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Usher syndrome is the most common condition that affects both hearing and vision. There are three general types of Usher syndrome. People with Usher syndrome type 1 (USH1) are born completely deaf and experience problems with balance. The first signs of RP — night blindness and loss of peripheral vision — usually appear in early adolescence. In Usher syndrome type 2 (USH2), newborns have moderate to severe hearing impairment. Symptoms of RP typically start shortly after adolescence. Visual problems progress less rapidly than in Usher type 1 and hearing loss usually remains stable. A rarer third type of Usher syndrome (USH3) was documented in 1995. Children with USH3 are usually born with good or only mild impairment of hearing. Their hearing and vision loss is progressive, starting around puberty. Balance may be affected. For more detailed information on Usher syndrome, please see the following web link: http://www.blindness.org/eye-conditions/usher-syndrome
      The Foundation Fighting Blindness is currently supporting a gene therapy trial for Usher type 1B. For more information on this clinical trial, please see the following link:
      http://www.blindness.org/clinical-trials/gene-therapy-usher-syndrome-type-1b-myo7a-mutations-oxford-biomedica
      Presently, there are no clinical trials for Usher type 2 or 3. However, FFB is funding a study at the University of Oklahoma to develop a non-viral gene therapy approach for treating Usher type 2A. For more information, please see the following link: http://www.blindness.org/blog/index.php/a-bigger-boat-for-nanoparicles/
      To participate in any gene therapy trial, you must first positively identify the gene mutation. For more information on genetic testing, please see the following link:
      http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/pages/pdfs/Genetic-Testing-Booklet-V5.2-20151023.pdf
      You may also want to consider enrolling in “My Retina Tracker”, a free registry that can help people find out about clinical trials that are recruiting. For more information on “My Retina Tracker” please see the following web link: https://www.myretinatracker.org/

  4. maryam says:

    Hi,i am 32 female,with RP needed some info as to tentatively when will there be a cure and how to go about this problem….thank u

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      You should know that there are three inherited forms of RP: recessive, dominant and X-linked. If you are not sure which type you have, you should ask your ophthalmologist. For information on inheritance types, please see the following web link to download a PDF document on inheritance:
      http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/inheritance_of_retinal_degeneration_-_july_2012.compressed.pdf
      You may also want to try to identify the disease gene/mutation. A molecular diagnosis is the most accurate diagnosis possible. With the genetic information you can check the medical databases to see what, if any research is being done. You also may be able to qualify for gene therapy trials that are taking place. For information on genetic testing, please see the following web link to download a PDF document:
      http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/genetic_testing_booklet_201311rev.pdf
      Whether you identify your disease gene or not, you should consider participating in FFB’s “My Retina Tracker”, a free registry that can help you find out about clinical trials that are recruiting for your specific disease. For more information on “My Retina Tracker” please see the following web link:
      https://www.myretinatracker.org/
      It may also be helpful to periodically check the website: http://WWW.CLINICALTRIALS.GOV which is maintained by the National Institutes of Health and contains a searchable list of clinical trials for most known diseases. Each clinical trial listing will provide you with information on what the study is about, the requirements for participating and contact information.

  5. Bob Wolf says:

    I’m 70 yr old with mac D.I’m increasily finding it difficult to make out the faces of family & friends.Am an avid gym goer, very physically fit. I would like to be considered for your stem cell trials. Thank you ,Bob

  6. Brad says:

    Hello,

    I am 37 and have RP. I am the the 4th generation (that I know of) to have this from my paternal lineage. I would be very interested in any information you might have as to qualifying for your trials and research. Also, I thank you for your efforts in trying to help those that have their vision, and as a result, their mobility and health, taken from them.

    Thank you,
    Brad B

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      You should know that there are three inherited forms of RP: recessive, dominant and X-linked. If you are not sure which type you have, you should ask your ophthalmologist. For information on inheritance types, please see the following web link to download a PDF document on inheritance:
      http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/inheritance_of_retinal_degeneration_-_july_2012.compressed.pdf

      You should consider genetic testing to try and identify the mutant gene responsible for causing the disease. If the gene is identified, medical databases such as PubMed can be searched to identify any research that is being conducted. With a molecular diagnosis, one may also qualify for gene therapy trials that are taking place. For information on genetic testing, please see the following web link to download a PDF document:
      http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/genetic_testing_booklet_201311rev.pdf

      Whether the disease gene is identified or not, one should still consider participating in FFB’s “My Retina Tracker”, a free registry that monitors clinical trials that are recruiting for various retinal diseases. For more information on “My Retina Tracker” please see the following web link:
      https://www.myretinatracker.org/

      It may also be helpful to periodically check the website: http://WWW.CLINICALTRIALS.GOV which is maintained by the National Institutes of Health and contains a searchable list of clinical trials for most known diseases. Each clinical trial listing will provide you with information on what the study is about, the requirements for participating and contact information.

    • basheer says:

      Dr I am also rp patent for more than 39 years. I am
      I am searching for any solution so far but no use. My eye iif.ifsite..
      rapidly decrease

  7. Robert says:

    Hi, my name is Robert, and I have glaucoma, in both eyes. In December of 2013 I suffered a stroke in my right eye, and my vision is very bad. At the present time I’m taking a lot of drops to keep the pressure down. I’ve also had three surgeries in my left eye. Do I qualify for your stem cell research program, and what would be the risks.

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      You should check the website: http://WWW.CLINICALTRIALS.GOV which is maintained by the National Institutes of Health and contains a searchable list of clinical trials for most known diseases. Each clinical trial listing will provide you with information on what the study is about, the requirements for participating and contact information.

    • Tim whetton says:

      Hi I am a 37 year old man with rp would you kindly put me toward as a candidate for stem cell surgery as my life is incredibly limited and just hoping for a glimmer of hope for my future many thanks

      Tim

      • EyeOnTheCure says:

        Hi Tim, You should know that there are three inherited forms of RP: recessive, dominant and X-linked. If you are not sure which type you have, you should ask your ophthalmologist. For information on inheritance types, please see the following web link to download a PDF document on inheritance:
        http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/inheritance_of_retinal_degeneration_-_july_2012.compressed.pdf

        You should definitely also consider genetic testing to try and identify the mutant gene responsible for causing the disease. If your gene is identified, medical databases such as PubMed can be searched to identify any research that is being conducted. With a molecular diagnosis, you may also qualify for gene therapy trials that are taking place. For information on genetic testing, please see the following web link to download a PDF document:
        http://www.blindness.org/sites/default/files/pages/pdfs/Genetic-Testing-Booklet-V5.2-20151023.pdf

        Whether your disease gene is identified or not, you should still consider participating in FFB’s “My Retina Tracker”, a free registry that monitors clinical trials that are recruiting for various retinal diseases. For more information on “My Retina Tracker” please see the following web link:
        https://www.myretinatracker.org/
        It may also be helpful to periodically check the website: http://WWW.CLINICALTRIALS.GOV which is maintained by the National Institutes of Health and contains a searchable list of clinical trials for most known diseases. Each clinical trial listing will provide you with information on what the study is about, the requirements for participating and contact information.
        Finally, stay tuned in to the FFB website for news on new treatments that are being developed. Thank you for your support.

  8. Ahmed says:

    Hi Hi , i’m a doctor 31 years old with previous retinal detachment 1 year ago followed by 3 operations and the vision now is not ok like 6/60 , if this item is included in your trials , i would like to share.

  9. sisir says:

    dear Dr I am 44 year old men. I am suffering from diabetic rentinopathy one i alredy my vision of left eye currently I feel lose of side vision in right eye. I don’t wants to be isolated from world, kindly guide me for treatment and precautions

  10. My friend 84years has maular degeneration was wet had treatment now dry no treatment could you be able help her Doctor say my eyes gey no better or worse at the moment not seeing well at all would i be able to be in trial or have treatment with sremcells thank you

  11. Jo Wes says:

    My husband was born with a eye defect in his left eye. At a young age, his stepfather caused additional severe damage to his eye. He was also in the military and suffered several injuries while in the service, including one that required reconstructive facial surgery.

    After a recent visit to the eye doctor we found out his eye has slowly been repairing itself, he can now see shapes and shadows. Are there any therapies available to repair corneal or retinal damage? Are there any clinical trials for stem cell treatments that could help improve his sight?

    • EyeOnTheCure says:

      Hi Jo,

      FFB funds research for inherited (genetic) retinal diseases. The research we support does not apply to his condition. We suggest contacting an academic research center (perhaps in your area) that may do more research for corneal or retinal damage.

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