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UW Scientist Leads Quest for New Macular Degeneration Therapy

Madison, Wisconsin - A University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health scientist is spearheading a study of new treatments for wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD).


Dr. Nader Sheibani, a professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, was awarded $6.2 million over five years from the National Eye Institute. In the first year, the collaborators will receive $1.2 million.


The project is a collaboration among:

  • Dr. Sheibani’s lab and others in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences
  • Researchers in the Department of Pediatrics in the School of Medicine and Public Health
  • Scientists at Northwestern University Center for Developmental Therapeutics and Feinberg School of Medicine
  • University of Nebraska Center for Drug Delivery and Nanomedicine

Each specialist and team brings different skills and techniques to the question of treatment of exudative AMD.


Wet or exudative AMD is the leading cause of blindness among aging Americans. The global rate of AMD is expected to double in the next decade as the population ages.  A cause of vision loss in this type of AMD is associated with angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels which are leaky with severe consequences to vision.


Ophthalmologists have developed treatments known as anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to slow or stop new vessels from forming. The anti-VEGF treatments require frequent injections into the eye. They are an important tool for ophthalmologists to help save vision and their use has demonstrated that inhibiting VEGF slows damage from AMD. However, VEGF is essential for normal ocular integrity and function. Therefore, there is a great need for new treatments which preserve vision without interfering with normal functions.


Dr. Sheibani and his collaborators hope to develop treatments using small peptides that mimic those of the body’s own inhibitors of angiogenesis. These treatments will counter VEGF activity and inhibit vascular growth in eyes with exudative AMD while providing an environment resistant to new vessel growth. 


This study will develop peptide mimetics – shorter versions of the proteins the body makes - that will stop vessel growth. Researchers at Northwestern University are developing the peptides and those at the University of Nebraska are developing the drug delivery nanotechnology. Dr. Sheibani and his staff will test whether the treatments work in preclinical models of the disease for its translation to humans.


The hope is that this class of drugs, because they mimic the body’s own defenses, will be more effective and have fewer side effects than the treatments already available. Although human clinical trials are years away, this research is truly translational, with the potential to greatly impact quality of life by preventing a common cause of vision loss.


Sheibani is a member of the McPherson Eye Research Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, as are study collaborators Bikash Pattnaik and Christine Sorenson, researchers in the Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Dan Albert and Dr. Ron Danis, both professors of ophthalmology and visual sciences.

Date Published: 03/20/2013

News tag(s):  researchophthalmology

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UW Scientist Leads Quest for New Macular Degeneration Therapy

Last updated: 07/15/2016
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