Dr. David Gamm's Team Awarded NIH Grant to Reverse Blindness
Madison, Wisconsin - A UW-Madison research team has been selected to work on one of six projects aimed at restoring vision by regenerating light-sensing photoreceptor cells in the eye.
Dr. David Gamm, director of the McPherson Eye Research Institute and associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and his team will work with a Johns Hopkins team on the project, funded by the National Institutes of Health to reverse blindness.
Together, the projects will receive $12.4 million over three years. They are part of the National Eye Institute (NEI) Audacious Goals Initiative, a targeted effort to restore vision by regenerating neurons and their connections in the eye and visual systems.
A large percentage of irreversible blindness results from damage or loss of photoreceptors in the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. Many well-known eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and retinitis pigmentosa, put these cells at risk. Once these photoreceptors are gone, humans have no natural capacity to replace them.
Gamm’s team will work with Dr. Donald Zack and colleagues at Johns Hopkins to study photoreceptor cells derived from human stem cells to determine what factors help coax them into becoming fully developed and connected photoreceptor cells.
“This is an essential step to bringing photoreceptor replacement therapies to clinics and patients one day,” said Gamm. “It is a collaborative effort that combines our retinal stem-cell technology with the specialized expertise at Johns Hopkins to keep the research moving toward clinical trials.”
Gamm’s team includes: scientist Joe Phillips; neuroscience professors Tim Gomez and Xinyu Zhao, and bioengineers Justin Williams and William Murphy. All are members of the McPherson Eye Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin.
The McPherson Eye Research Institute, founded in 2005, is a multidisciplinary community of basic science and clinical researchers working to gain critical knowledge about the science and art of vision and apply it to the prevention or reversal of blindness.
The National Eye Institute leads the federal government’s research on the visual system and eye diseases. The National Eye Institute supports basic and clinical science programs to develop sight-saving treatments and address special needs of people with vision loss.
Date Published: 09/01/2016