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Archive for the Diseases Category

First Patient Treated in XLRP Gene Therapy Clinical Trial

The surgical team prepares to inject the virus into the back of the eye of the patient A 29-year-old British man is the first person to be treated in a gene therapy clinical trial for X-linked retinitis pigmentosa (XLRP). Robert MacLaren, MD, the lead investigator for the trial taking place at the Oxford Eye Hospital in the United Kingdom, says the patient is doing well and has gone home. The trial is being run by Nightstar, a biopharmaceutical company in the U.K. developing therapies for inherited retinal diseases. As many as 24 patients will be enrolled in the 12-month trial.

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Foundation Investing in Drug to Slow Many Forms of RP

Sometimes, fighting blindness means helping people save the vision they have, or at least slowing disease progression enough so they can maintain useful vision for all of their lives.

That’s the idea behind a promising, emerging drug for retinitis pigmentosa (RP) known as N-acetylcysteine-amide (NACA). The Foundation Fighting Blindness Clinical Research Institute (FFB-CRI) has announced an investment of up to $7.5 million to advance the potential therapy into and through a Phase II clinical trial. In several animal models, including previous FFB-funded lab studies of rodent models at Johns Hopkins University, NACA slowed retinal degeneration.

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A Change in Identity Might Someday Save Vision

retina

No, people with inherited retinal diseases don’t have to adopt new names or personas, or go into witness protection programs, to save their vision. But by changing the identity of cells in the retina — namely rods — researchers may someday be able to slow or halt vision loss for those with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and other related conditions.

While the innovative therapeutic approach is not ready to be tested in humans, a research team led by Tom Reh, PhD, University of Washington, and Sheng Ding, PhD, University of California, San Francisco, accomplished the feat in mice with RP. The investigators treated rods in the mice with a compound known as photoregulin1 (PR1) that blocked a gene involved in rod development called Nr2e3. That, in turn, reduced the expression (activity) of other rod-associated genes, making the rods less rod-like and more like cones. Doing so stopped retinal degeneration, preserving both rods and cones. Rods and cones are important, because they’re the cells that make vision possible. Results of the PR1 study were published online in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

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Embrace Your Exceptions: A Mantra for Understanding Retinal-Disease Inheritance

Stephen Daiger, Ph.D. and colleague Lori Sullivan, Ph.D.Inherited retinal diseases are difficult to understand merely because they’re so rare and diverse. More than 250 genes, when mutated, can cause them, yet collectively, they affect only 200,000 people in the United States.

Their widely varying impact on vision adds to the challenge. For example, the youngest sibling in a family may be nearly blind from retinitis pigmentosa (RP), while his or her older brother or sister with the same RP gene mutation can have near normal vision.

But as FFB-funded retinal geneticist Stephen Daiger, Ph.D., discussed at the RD2016 meeting in Kyoto, Japan, the complex and elusive nature of these conditions can also extend to the way they are passed down in families, making diagnosis and prognosis quite challenging. Dr. Daiger was one of nearly 300 retinal researchers who gathered September 19-24, 2016, for the world’s largest conference focused exclusively on retinal degenerative diseases. The conference was supported in-part by FFB.
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VISIONS 2016 – Keynote Speaker Dartanyon Crockett on Fear and Courage

Dartanyon CrockettAlmost from the start, the cards were stacked against Dartanyon Crockett. He was diagnosed, at an early age, with Leber’s disease, which caused him to be legally blind. At the age of 8, he lost his mother. And by middle school, he was relentlessly teased for being visually impaired.
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VISIONS 2016 – Dr. Richard Weleber Receives FFB’s Highest Research Honor, Recognized in Touching Video

Dr. Richard WeleberConsidering all that Richard Weleber, M.D., has accomplished over four decades —
including leadership and oversight of clinical trials for emerging retinal-disease therapies and innovations in retina imaging and functional evaluation at the world-renowned Casey Eye Institute, Oregon Health & Science University — it comes as no surprise that he’s been given FFB’s Llura Liggett Gund Award for career achievement. Dr. Weleber became the 10th recipient of the Foundation’s highest honor, named after FFB co-founder Lulie Gund, during the opening lunch of the VISIONS 2016 conference.
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VISIONS 2016 – Dr. Shomi Bhattacharya Wins FFB Award for Gaining an Understanding of Variations in Vision Loss

Dr. Shomi BhattacharyaInherited retinal conditions such as Stargardt disease and retinitis pigmentosa (RP) run in families. The diseases in some families span several generations with dozens of affected members. In other cases, a disease may only affect one or more siblings within a single generation. Researchers have understood the nature of these different inheritance patterns fairly well for several decades.
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Back in Baltimore – VISIONS 2016, FFB’s National Conference, Returns to Its Founding City

Baltimore's Inner HarborFor the second year in a row, the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ national conference — this year titled VISIONS 2016 — will take place in FFB’s founding city of Baltimore, Maryland, June 30-July 3. More than 500 people are expected to attend the event, which will offer dozens of research- and lifestyle-focused sessions designed for people who are visually impaired and sighted as well.
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Two Philanthropic Brothers – Selling Luxury Casual Wear for the Good of Retinal Research

Bryan and Bradford Manning in New York City.Bradford Manning and his brother, Bryan, have a great sense of humor. You can see it in the video for their new clothing line, Two Blind Brothers — which donates its proceeds to retinal research — and hear it when you talk to Bradford over the phone.
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A Steady Hand in Saving Vision

Dr. Robert MacLaren performing eye surgery.A retinal researcher can develop the best vision-saving stem-cell or gene therapy ever imagined, but if the doctor or surgeon can’t deliver it to the retina safely and effectively, the treatment is worthless. It could even be harmful.
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