Sarah Goodwin

Kathi Ovnic
Holly Korschun
November 17, 1998


The Emory Eye Center was named today by The Foundation Fighting Blindness as a national research center for retinal degenerations. The Foundation has awarded Emory more than $100,000 for each of the next five years for research into the cause, prevention and treatment of retinal degenerations.

Retinal degenerations, including macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, are sight-stealing disorders that affect the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye.

"The Foundation's grant will help to further and formalize the research that we have been conducting at Emory for the past few years," said Paul Sternberg Jr., M.D., director of the Eye Center's retina section and director of the new research center. "Our designation as a national research center is a vote of confidence for the strength of our scientists and clinicians and the merit of our work." The Foundation already has 13 such centers worldwide.

Over the past ten years, the Eye Center has developed a nationally recognized team of physicians and scientists who work together on the study of and care for retinal diseases, particularly retinal degenerations. These researchers are actively involved in almost every multi-center collaborative clinical trial sponsored by the National Eye Institute. Eye Center basic scientists also have expertise in molecular genetics, immunology, drug delivery, cell biology, ocular pathology, and biochemistry.

Eye Center researchers have developed and are refining special microsurgical instruments and techniques for transplanting cells on the retina. Judith Kapp, Ph.D., an Eye Center immunologist working with a three-year Foundation grant totaling $294,676, is looking at ways to keep the body from rejecting the cells once they are transplanted. Other basic scientists are studying methods to direct drugs safely and effectively to the retina.

Emory retina surgeon David Saperstein, M.D., who also has received a three-year grant totaling $150,000 from The Foundation, is conducting research into gene therapy, a treatment that may replace defective genes responsible for retinal degenerations, preventing vision loss. Since age-related macular degeneration-the leading cause of blindness for Americans over age 65-can result from oxidative injury to retinal cells, Dr. Sternberg is looking into whether antioxidants may protect against oxidative injury.

"With grants from The Foundation and other agencies, we can continue this groundbreaking work," said Dr. Sternberg. "We also can create a database to help manage the data we collect from our clinical trials."

The Foundation Fighting Blindness, Inc. is a national eye research organization that funds more than 100 research studies at 40 prominent institutions worldwide. Since its founding in 1971, the organization has raised more than $130 million for research into blinding diseases.

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