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Research to Prevent Blindness awards $100,000 grant (7/23/97)

Wichard A.J. van Heuven, MD, chairman of the department of ophthalmology at The University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHSCSA), has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of blinding diseases.

Since 1981, RPB has been the major continuous support for eye and vision research in the department and has awarded ophthalmology grants totaling $961,500.RPB's generous contributions have helped increase the department's yearly research budget, and at the end of 1996 totaled $l.6 million.Many start-up projects have been funded and interim support between grants has been provided for investigators.

"Funding from Research to Prevent Blindness has assisted both basic and clinical research in the department," Dr. van Heuven said, ''dealing with retinal degeneration's such as macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, and vascular causes of blindness in macular degeneration and diabetes.Another area of basic research relates to the optimum way an eye can be made to function, particularly in cornea and refractive surgery.

"Clinical research continues in AIDS, diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity, glaucoma, macular degeneration and ocular tumors," Dr. van Heuven added. "Innovations in the department have led to several patents relating to new drugs for glaucoma, instruments for early detection of damage in diabetes, and instruments to detect optical problems in the cornea."

In addition, RPB's International Research Scholar's Award was given to Alexander E. Dontsov, PhD, Russian Academy of Sciences, to enable Dr. Dontsov to travel to the Health Science Center for two months to work with Dr. Randolph Glickman, also from the department of ophthalmology. Dr. Glickman is conducting research into photosensitized reactions occurring in the retinal pigment epithelium and retina of the eye.

Dr. Dontsov is an internationally recognized expert on the photochemistry of melanin and lipofuscin pigments, not only in the eye but in other biological systems.

"The support from Research to Prevent Blindness will enable these two scientists to combine their talents and efforts," Dr. van Heuven said, "and determine if photochemical and oxidative reactions are responsible for the age-related degenerative processes which are among the leading causes of blindness today."

Research to Prevent Blindness is the world's leading voluntary organization supporting eye research. Since it was founded in 1960, RPB has channeled more than $l44 million to medical institutions throughout the United States for research into all blinding eye diseases.

Contact: Jan Elkins (210) 567-2570