Upstate receives Research to Prevent Blindness award to support vision research

The Ophthalmology Department at Upstate Medical University has received a $110,000 unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), bringing the department’s total amount of RPB funding to more than $2.6 million since 1998.

The RPB funding is used to advance studies by researchers in the department’s Center for Vision Research. CVR scientists collaborate with each other and with colleagues from around the world to discover scientifically proven ways to preserve and restore sight.

Ann Barker-Griffith, MD, interim chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, will direct this most recent grant.

“Research to Prevent Blindness is the largest supporter of vision research outside of the Federal Government and is dedicated to supporting vision research at all levels,” said Barker-Griffith. “The unrestricted departmental funds can act as seed money to support novel ideas that haven’t been funded through other sources yet, to help researchers who need additional support, and to help veteran researchers continue their investigations when they are between funding,” said Barker-Griffith. “All of us at the Center for Vision Research appreciate RPB’s continued support of our research team and the work we are doing.”

In addition to RPB funding, Upstate’s Ophthalmology Department has attracted more than $22.7 million in peer-reviewed funding from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and other agencies and lists among its funding sources $1.2 million from the Grateful Patient campaign of the Upstate Medical University Foundation and $250,000 from the Lions Clubs of District 20-Y1.

Combined, this funding has been instrumental in helping its researchers and their colleagues make important discoveries into the causes of eye diseases, such as:

• An innovative use of technology that shows promise in advancing knowledge of the causes of congenital degenerative diseases of the eye, such as retinitis pigmentosa,

• A discovery of new information into what causes the outer segment of light-sensing cells to snap under pressure. These findings provide the first theory that explains how the structural rigidity of the outer segment can make it prone to damage and represent a significant advance in the understanding of retinal degenerative diseases.

• A unique approach to develop cone photoreceptors, creating new pathways for the discovery of improved therapies to treat age-related macular degeneration.

For more information about the research conducted at the Center for Vision Research or to tour the CVR laboratory facilities, contact Carol Miller, research program coordinator, at (315) 464-5253.

Caption: Andrea Viczian, PhD,  is studying cone photoreceptors cells in the retina that allow for day vision and that are linked to age-related macular degeneration.

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