July 20, 1997

Media Contacts: Sarah Goodwin, 404/727-3366 - sgoodwi@emory.edu
Kathi Ovnic, 404/727-9371 - covnic@emory.edu

The Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), a partnership between state universities, business communities and state government, recently awarded the Emory Eye Center $412,000 to equip a molecular biology center. The grant matched a $412,000 construction grant awarded by the National Institutes of Health.

"The grant helps us purchase state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, such as a special microscope that creates a three-dimensional images of microscopic samples, highly specialized spectrometers to examine protein folding, and computers and software to help us examine proteins," said John Nickerson, Ph.D., a molecular biologist at the Eye Center and principal investigator for the GRA grant. "It enables us to become a center of excellence in eye research."

Dr. Nickerson is studying the role of IRBP, a protein that transports vitamin A within the retina. This process is essential for vision. IRBP may be responsible for genetic retinal diseases and for a serious disorder in which the body's own immune system attacks the eye.

"We are honored that our Georgia legislators unanimously agreed to sponsor this grant," said Thomas M. Aaberg, M.D., Sr., director of the Eye Center.

The equipment also helps Eye Center scientists to study physiological properties of normal and mutant proteins and genes. Mutant proteins and genes can cause genetic eye disorders such as glaucoma or cataracts.

The Emory Eye Center is the third leading eye center in the United States for the number of ophthalmology clinical trials and twelfth in the nation for the amount of research grants.

For more general information on The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, call Health Sciences News and Information at 404-727-5686, or send e-mail to hsnews@emory.edu.

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