UCSD and Scripps Awarded $10.2M Grant for Optical Disease Research and Therapeutics
The National Eye Institute (NEI) has just awarded a major grant to a team of three scientists from the Scripps Institute and the University of California San Diego to develop a novel treatment for diabetic retinopathy and other forms of macular degeneration. The optical research investigators are:
- Martin Friedlander, opthalmologist, Scripps Institute
- David Cheresh, molecular pathologist, UCSD
- Michael Sailor, biochemist, UCSD
Their work will take as its starting point a discovery by Dr. Cheresh that a small strand of gene-regulating RNA, a micro-RNA known as miR-132, acts as an on-switch for the hyper-growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) in tumors. Subsequent experiments by Cheresh and then Friedlander found that it was possible to turn the switch off with an anti-angiogenesis solution targeting that micro-RNA. So far the mouse model is positive in showing no disturbance of normal eye function with the treatment.
[Right, a researcher examines a retina with diabetic eye disease, courtesy of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health]
Dr. Sailor's expertise will come into the project with the development of an improved delivery system for eye therapeutics using nanoparticles. Treatments for various optical diseases require frequent injections into the eye, which open up the possibility of infection. The nanoparticle system requires one shot to the back of the eye, then auto-delivers a steady dose of the treatment solution over a period of weeks or months, minimizing the number of injections a patient needs to undergo.
Over the course of the 5-year, $10.2M grant, the team will experiment with other anti-miR solutions to address different causes of macular degeneration and disease. They expect to have several specific trials ready to go using the nanoparticle delivery at that time.
The Scripps Research Institute is dedicated to carrying out basic biomedical research, primarily in its laboratories, to learn how the human body operates on all levels. One of its areas of research is blindness and vision loss.
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