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News from NEI Grantees

Stem Cells Have Potential to Repair Diseased Corneas

September 17, 2014

Corneal transplant (keratoplasty) is a known means of successfully treating corneal disease. However, without unlimited donor corneas, researchers say there is a need to study alternate methods of treatment for eye disease and eye trauma. One method being studied at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine is the transplantation of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells (UMSC) into the cornea stroma.

New Glaucoma Culprit Is Found

September 12, 2014

In a unique study of human ocular cells, a multi-institution research team led by a biomedical engineer at Northwestern University has found a new culprit. Glaucoma appears to be a consequence of mechanical dysfunction of endothelial cells -- a thin layer of cells that is the final barrier to fluid entering Schlemm's canal, from which fluid then drains from the eye.

"Haven't I Seen This Before?" Researchers Show How Neurons Respond to Sequences of Familiar Objects

August 25, 2014

A new study from Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC), a joint project between Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, reveals how neurons in the part of the brain responsible for recognizing objects respond to being shown a barrage of images. The study is published online by Nature Neuroscience.

Proteins critical to wound healing identified

August 18, 2014

Research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis may have implications for treating diseases involving abnormal blood vessel growth, such as the impaired wound healing often seen in diabetes and the loss of vision caused by macular degeneration.

Birthdate and Outgrowth Timing Predict Cellular Mechanisms of Axon Target Matching in the Developing Visual Pathway

July 31, 2014

How axons select their appropriate targets in the brain remains poorly understood. Researchers at the University of California, San Diego explore the cellular mechanisms of axon target matching in the developing visual system by comparing four transgenic mouse lines, each with a different population of genetically labeled retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) that connect to unique combinations of brain targets.

Jackson Laboratory researchers reveal novel nature of Schlemm's canal

July 22, 2014

A Jackson Laboratory-based research team has conducted an exhaustive exploration of an eye structure known as Schlemm's canal (SC), a key gatekeeper for the proper flow of eye fluid, presenting a number of insights relevant to glaucoma and other diseases.

New compound treats both blindness, diabetes in animal studies

July 10, 2014

In a new study led by UC San Francisco (UCSF) scientists, a chemical compound designed to precisely target part of a crucial cellular quality-control network provided significant protection, in rats and mice, against degenerative forms of blindness and diabetes.

Patient-specific stem cells and personalized gene therapy

July 10, 2014

Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have created a way to develop personalized gene therapies for patients with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a leading cause of vision loss. The approach, the first of its kind, takes advantage of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology to transform skin cells into retinal cells, which are then used as a patient-specific model for disease study and preclinical testing.

Dodging dots helps explain brain circuitry

July 7, 2014

In a new study, Brown University neuroscientists looked cell-by-cell at the brain circuitry that tadpoles, and possibly other animals, use to avoid collisions. The study produced a model of how individual inhibitory and excitatory neurons can work together to control a simple behavior.

Researchers Regrow Human Corneas: First Known Tissue Grown from a Human Stem Cell

July 2, 2014

Boston researchers have identified a way to enhance regrowth of human corneal tissue to restore vision, using a molecule known as ABCB5 that acts as a marker for hard-to-find limbal stem cells. This work, a collaboration between the Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute (Mass. Eye and Ear), Boston Children's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital and the VA Boston Healthcare System, provides promise to burn victims, victims of chemical injury and others with damaging eye diseases.

Researchers Use Human Stem Cells to Create Light—Sensitive Retina in a Dish

June 10, 2014

Using a type of human stem cell, Johns Hopkins researchers say they have created a three-dimensional complement of human retinal tissue in the laboratory, which notably includes functioning photoreceptor cells capable of responding to light, the first step in the process of converting it into visual images.

JHU Biologists Identify New Neural Pathway in Eyes that Aids in Vision

May 21, 2014

A type of retina cell plays a more critical role in vision than previously known, a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers has discovered. Working with mice, the scientists found that the ipRGCs — an atypical type of photoreceptor in the retina — help detect contrast between light and dark, a crucial element in the formation of visual images.

IU School of Optometry study: New technique detects microscopic diabetes-related eye damage

April 17, 2014

Indiana University researchers have detected new early-warning signs of the potential loss of sight associated with diabetes. This discovery could have far-reaching implications for the diagnosis and treatment of diabetic retinopathy, potentially impacting the care of over 25 million Americans.

Clinical Trial Uses Gene Therapy to Target Mutations in Mitochondrial Genes

April 2, 2014

A multidisciplinary research team of scientists, clinicians and biostatisticians led by John Guy, M.D., professor of ophthalmology and director of the ocular gene therapy laboratory at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, has pioneered a gene therapy approach for Leber Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON), an inherited genetic disorder that causes rapid, permanent, and bilateral loss of vision in people of all ages, but primarily men ages 20-40.

Motion-Sensing Cells in the Eye Let the Brain 'Know' About Directional Changes

March 3, 2014

In a detailed study of the neurons linking the eyes and brains of mice, biologists at UC San Diego discovered that the ability of our brains and those of other mammals to figure out and process in our brains directional movements is a result of the activation in the cortex of signals that originate from the direction-sensing cells in the retina of our eyes.

In the eye of a chicken, a new state of matter comes into view

February 24, 2014

The unusual arrangement of cells in a chicken's eye constitutes the first known biological occurrence of a potentially new state of matter known as "disordered hyperuniformity," according to researchers from Princeton University and Washington University in St. Louis. Research in the past decade has shown that disordered hyperuniform materials have unique properties when it comes to transmitting and controlling light waves, the researchers report in the journal Physical Review E.

Mystery Behind Galileo's Visual Illusion Discovered

February 11, 2014

A study at SUNY Optometry advances our understanding of how our brains are wired for seeing white versus black objects.

A short stay in darkness may heal hearing woes

February 5, 2014

Call it the Ray Charles Effect: a young child who is blind develops a keen ability to hear things that others cannot. Researchers have long known this can happen in the brains of the very young, which are malleable enough to re-wire some circuits that process sensory information. Now researchers at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University have overturned conventional wisdom, showing the brains of adult mice can also be re-wired to compensate for a temporary vision loss by improving their hearing.

In the brain, the number of neurons in a network may not matter

February 3, 2014

A new study indicates that it may be possible to accurately characterize complete neural networks by recording the activity of properly selected samples of 50 neurons or less - an alternative that is much easier to realize. The study was performed by a team of cognitive neuroscientists at Vanderbilt University and reported in a paper published the week of Feb. 3 in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Visual System Can Retain Plasticity, Even After Extended Early Blindness

January 27, 2014

Deprivation of vision during critical periods of childhood development has long been thought to result in irreversible vision loss. Now, researchers from the Schepens Eye Research Institute/Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Harvard Medical School (HMS) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have challenged that theory by studying a unique population of pediatric patients who were blind during these critical periods before removal of bilateral cataracts.

Expanding our view of vision

January 26, 2014

Every time you open your eyes, visual information flows into your brain, which interprets what you're seeing. Now, for the first time, MIT neuroscientists have noninvasively mapped this flow of information in the human brain with unique accuracy, using a novel brain-scanning technique.

Parkinson's drugs could provide new avenue to treat diabetes-related vision problems

January 21, 2014

Dopamine-restoring drugs already used to treat Parkinson's disease may also be beneficial for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy, a leading cause of blindness in adults, Emory University researchers have discovered. The results were published recently in Journal of Neuroscience.

Light Exposure During Pregnancy Key to Normal Eye Development

January 16, 2014

Scientists say the unexpected finding offers a new basic understanding of fetal eye development and ocular diseases caused by vascular disorders - in particular one called retinopathy of prematurity that can blind premature infants. The research, led by scientists at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and UCSF, was published online Jan. 16 in Nature.

Two players produce destructive cascade of diabetic retinopathy

January 13, 2014

"It's a cascade that requires two players to signal the next event that causes the damage," said Dr. Ruth Caldwell, cell biologist at the Vascular Biology Center at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Regents University. The good news is the finding also provides two new points for intervention, said Dr. Modesto Rojas, MCG postdoctoral fellow and first author of the study in the journal PLOS ONE.

Study identifies potential new strategy to improve odds of corneal transplant acceptance

December 30, 2013

For the estimated 10 percent of patients whose bodies reject a corneal transplant, the odds of a second transplant succeeding are poor. All that could change, however, based on a UT Southwestern Medical Center study that has found a way to boost the corneal transplant acceptance rate.

Critical Gene In Retinal Development And Motion Sensing Identified

October 31, 2013

Our vision depends on exquisitely organized layers of cells within the eye's retina, each with a distinct role in perception. Johns Hopkins researchers say they have taken an important step toward understanding how those cells are organized to produce what the brain "sees."

New Eye Treatment Effective in Laboratory Tests

October 23, 2013

A promising technique for treating human eye disease has proven effective in preclinical studies and may lead to new treatments to prevent blindness, according to experiments conducted at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in La Jolla, California.

Penn Researchers Take First Step Toward a Macular Dystrophy Gene Therapy

October 16, 2013

Researchers report "encouraging" findings that mark the first clear step in developing a gene therapy that could prevent vision loss or even restore vision in individuals with Best disease.

Tufts researchers identify potential topical treatment for macular degeneration

October 9, 2013

The research findings, published today in PLOS ONE, are the first to report successful topical use of a compound capable of inhibiting symptoms associated with both dry AMD (the earlier form) and wet AMD (the rarer, later form) and could represent a breakthrough for treatment of these conditions.

Therapeutic Eye Injections May Be Needed Less Often--Time-release coating allows drug for macular degeneration to last longer

August 21, 2013

Johns Hopkins biomedical engineers have teamed up with clinicians to create a new drug-delivery strategy for a type of central vision loss caused by blood vessel growth at the back of the eye, where such growth should not occur.

Dr. Ed Levine Researches Key "Retina-Building Gene"

August 21, 2013

Retinal diseases are the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 60 and over, affecting millions of people worldwide. Pioneering research at the Levine Laboratory, Moran Eye Center, University of Utah is providing scientists with a new understanding of how the retina develops from conception to birth.

Gene Regulator Is Key to Healthy Retinal Development and Good Vision in Adulthood

August 13, 2013

Scientists are developing a clearer picture of how visual systems develop in mammals. The findings offer important clues to the origin of retinal disorders later in life.

Protein Key Found for Adults to Re-Learn How to See

August 08, 2013

A new discovery by a University of Maryland-led research team offers hope for treating "lazy eye" and other serious visual problems that are usually permanent unless they are corrected in early childhood.

Recycling in the eye promotes good vision

July 18, 2013

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis have found that good vision depends, at least in part, on a recycling process in the eye that mops up cellular debris and reuses light-sensitive proteins.

UCSB Study Shows Where Scene Context Happens in our Brain

May 20, 2013

Over the millennia of human evolution, our brains developed a pattern of search based largely on environmental cues and scene context.

Hit a 95 mph baseball? Scientists pinpoint how we see it coming

May 8, 2013

For the first time, vision scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have pinpointed how the brain tracks fast-moving objects.

Lost your keys? Your cat? The brain can rapidly mobilize a search party

April 22, 2013

When we embark on a targeted search, various visual and non-visual regions of the brain mobilize to track down a person, animal or thing.

One-two Punch Could Be Key in Treating Blindness

April 9, 2013

Researchers have discovered that using two kinds of therapy in tandem may be a knockout combo against inherited disorders that cause blindness.

Wisconsin Study Eyes Better Results for Aging Population

March 25, 2013

A 20-year study of almost 5,000 residents of Beaver Dam, Wis. has some good news - the eye health of older Americans is improving.

Glaucoma Check-Ups Lag in Hispanics

December 12, 2012

The odds of individuals with open-angle glaucoma undergoing visual field testing decreased for all racial/ethnic groups from 2001 through 2009, but the odds decreased the most for Hispanic men and women in a study of enrollees in a large U.S. managed care network.

Cells from Skin Create Model of Blinding Eye Disease

December 10, 2012

For the first time, University of Wisconsin researchers have taken skin from patients and, using induced pluripotent stem cell technology, turned them into a laboratory model for an inherited type of macular degeneration.

Research On Blood Vessel Proteins Holds Promise for Controlling 'Blood-Brain Barrier'

December 7, 2012

Working with mice, Johns Hopkins researchers have shed light on the activity of a protein pair found in cells that form the walls of blood vessels in the brain and retina, experiments that could lead to therapeutic control of the blood-brain barrier and of blood vessel growth in the eye.

Researchers See The Light in Bid to Restore Lost Vision

December 5, 2012

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the University of California at Los Angeles recently created a light-sensitive molecule that they say could help restore vision lost in degenerative eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, and reduce epileptic seizures.

Rosemary May Help Prevent Eye Disease

November 27, 2012

A substance in rosemary may have clinical applications for diseases affecting the retina, including age-related macular degeneration, U.S. researchers say. Dr. Stuart A. Lipton and colleagues at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute said carnosic acid, a component of the herb rosemary, promotes eye health.

Immunity May Play Role in Eye Disease

November 27, 2012

"Our findings are epigenetic in nature, meaning that the underlying DNA is normal but gene expression has been modified, likely by environmental factors, in an adverse way," Dr. Robert Nussenblatt, chief of the National Eye Institute Laboratory of Immunology, part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

Architecture of Rod Sensory Cilium Disrupted By Mutation

November 21, 2012

Using a new technique called cryo-electron tomography, two research teams at Baylor College of Medicine have created a three-dimensional map that gives a better understanding of how the architecture of the rod sensory cilium (part of one type of photoreceptor in the eye) is changed by genetic mutation and how that affects its ability to transport proteins as part of the light-sensing process.

Neurons Made From Stem Cells Drive Brain Activity after Transplantation

November 15, 2012

Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have found a way to stimulate stem cell-derived neurons to direct cognitive function after transplantation to an existing neural network by using optogenetic stimulation - getting us a step closer to using these cells to treat Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

Engineering a Photo-Switch for Nerve Cells in the Eye and Brain

November 14, 2012

Chemists and vision scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago have designed a light-sensitive molecule that can stimulate a neural response in cells of the retina and brain -- a possible first step to overcoming degenerative eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, or to quieting epileptic seizures.

Study Examines Genetics, Incidence of Age-Related Macular Degeneration

November 9, 2012

Dr. Ronald Klein, of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and colleagues describe the relationship of age and risk alleles (variant gene forms) with the incidence and progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) during a 20-year period. They conclude the overall five-year incidence of early AMD was 9.1 percent and late AMD was 1.6 percent.

Department of Health and Human Services NIH, the National Institutes of Health