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Fan, Haider, Kazlauskas Earn BrightFocus Grants

Contact: Joe O’Shea

BOSTON (August 28, 2014) -- Three Massachusetts Eye and Ear/Schepens Eye Research Institute researchers were recently awarded grants from the BrightFocus Foundation for their pioneering work in the areas of macular degeneration and glaucoma. The Maryland-based BrightFocus Foundation is a nonprofit organization that funds innovative research on Alzheimer’s disease and the vision diseases of glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Baojian FanBaojian Fan, M.D., Ph.D., of Mass. Eye and Ear earned $100,000 for finding genes that cause Pigment Dispersion Syndrome (PDS) and pigmentary glaucoma, a common glaucoma that usually affects young adults and can be inherited. In his proposal, Dr. Fan and co-primary investigator Janey Wiggs, M.D., Ph.D., plan to use a new technology, exome sequencing, to track down the genes that can cause this glaucoma, and then use the results to develop new methods of diagnosis and treatment for PDS and pigmentary glaucoma.

Neena HaiderWhere age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is rapidly becoming the primary cause of blindness in the world today, it’s imperative that researchers and clinicians understand the root causes of this disease. Working with co-primary investigator Kip Connor, Ph.D., Neena Haider, Ph.D., of Schepens Eye Research Institute was awarded a $120,000 grant to pursue the development of a new genetic model for Choroidal Neovascular (wet) AMD. 

Andrius KazlauskasIn an effort to better understand the origin of AMD, Andrius Kazlauskas, Ph.D., of Schepens Eye Research Institute is examining how retinal pigment epithelia (RPE), a group of cells in the back of the eye, is injured in aging patients with central vision loss. Specifically, Dr. Kazlauskas will use his $120,000 grant to test his hypothesis that one of the causes of AMD is the inability of the eye to cope with cellular stress.  He believes that the genes that harbor genetic variants, which are associated with an increased susceptibility of developing AMD, are involved with resolving cellular stress.

Learn more about the BrightFocus Grants.