Mass. Eye and Ear researchers receive Eversight grant award

July 13, 2016
Media Contact:
Suzanne Day
Media Relations, Mass. Eye and Ear
617-573-3897
Suzanne_Day@meei.harvard.edu

Jarkunas_UlaAnn Arbor, Mich. —  Eversight, a global non-profit network of eye banks, has awarded an Eye and Vision Research grant to Ula V. Jurkunas, M.D. (pictured right), and Shivakumar Vasanth, Ph.D. Dr. Jurkunas is a specialist in corneal and refractive surgery at Massachusetts Eye and Ear and an Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School and Associate Scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear. Dr. Vasanth is a cell and molecular biology scientist in the laboratory of Dr. Jurkunas and a Research Associate in the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Drs. Jurkunas and Vasanth were among nine recipients who received grants from Eversight for projects that aligned with the organization’s mission to restore sight and prevent blindness. The awards were determined by an independent review panel composed of distinguished scientists, ophthalmologists and health services researchers.

Dr. Jurkunas' laboratory was the first to demonstrate the role of oxidative stress in FECD pathophysiology, and has contributed to multiple studies and clinical trials on the genetic underpinnings of corneal dystrophies, clinical studies on FECD, treatment of dry eyes and corneal neovascularization. Dr.Vasanth's recent study on the trinucleotide repeat expansion in FECD will enable the team to jointly investigate the role of aberrant DNA damage response in Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy (FECD) and its effect on the trinucleotide repeat expansion in the TCF4 gene.

The grant will allow Dr. Jurkunas and her team to begin research to clarify an unexplained link between expansion of CTG repeats in TCF4 and the effect of oxidative stress-driven nuclear DNA damage. The investigation intends to provide a novel link between the observed cellular effects and the most significant genetic determinant of FECD, helping identify the pathway aberrantly regulated due to oxidative stress.

The Eye and Vision Research Grant program has awarded more than $3 million to stimulate new and pioneering research since 1980. Several of these grants have led to larger studies and significant financial support from the National Institutes of Health.

“There is a real and profound void when it comes to funding the initial investigative work that can yield important discoveries,” said Eversight Research Director Gregory Grossman, Ph.D. “Today’s advances in ocular health are the result of institutions like Eversight who are willing to support new but often untested inquiry. We are committed to providing preliminary funding to launch new and potentially ground-breaking research.”

The grants are part of the Eversight Center for Eye and Vision Research, one of the only eye bank-led programs focused on providing scientists with innovative resources they need to find new cures and treatments for blinding eye conditions. For more information, visit eversightvision.org/research.


About Eversight
Eversight is a charitable, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization whose mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness through the healing power of donation, transplantation and research. Our network of community eye banks — in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio and South Korea — is responsible for recovering, evaluating and providing human eye tissue for transplantation; supporting research into the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions; promoting donation awareness through public and professional education; and providing humanitarian aid to people around the world in need of corneal transplantation. For more information, visit eversightvision.org.

About Massachusetts Eye and Ear
Mass. Eye and Ear clinicians and scientists are driven by a mission to find cures for blindness, deafness and diseases of the head and neck.  Now united with Schepens Eye Research Institute, Mass. Eye and Ear is the world's largest vision and hearing research center, developing new treatments and cures through discovery and innovation. Mass. Eye and Ear is a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital and trains future medical leaders in ophthalmology and otolaryngology, through residency as well as clinical and research fellowships.  Internationally acclaimed since its founding in 1824, Mass. Eye and Ear employs full-time, board-certified physicians who offer high-quality and affordable specialty care that ranges from the routine to the very complex. In the 2015–2016 “Best Hospitals Survey,” U.S. News & World Report ranked Mass. Eye and Ear #1 in the nation for ear, nose and throat care and #1 in the Northeast for eye care. For more information about life-changing care and research, or to learn how you can help, please visit MassEyeAndEar.org.

About Harvard Medical School Department of Ophthalmology
The Harvard Medical School (HMS) Department of Ophthalmology (eye.hms.harvard.edu) is one of the leading and largest academic departments of ophthalmology in the nation. More than 350 full-time faculty and trainees work at nine HMS affiliate institutions, including Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Schepens Eye Research Institute of Massachusetts Eye and Ear, Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Joslin Diabetes Center/Beetham Eye Institute, Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System, VA Maine Healthcare System, and Cambridge Health Alliance. Formally established in 1871, the department has been built upon a strong and rich foundation in medical education, research, and clinical care. Through the years, faculty and alumni have profoundly influenced ophthalmic science, medicine, and literature—helping to transform the field of ophthalmology from a branch of surgery into an independent medical specialty at the forefront of science.