Yang Sun, M.D., Ph.D., received $1,023,530 from the National Eye Institute to study congenital glaucoma with the hope of discovering new treatments for common forms of glaucoma.
Brian Samuels, M.D., Ph.D., received $107,505 from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s 2012-13 Young Investigator Training Awards and Predoctoral Training Awards. This is his second year for the CTSI award. Dr. Samuels’ research focuses on the role of the central nervous system and the progression of glaucoma, with the probability of directly translating this research into novel clinical treatment options.
Rajashekhar Gangaraju, Ph.D., received $105,507 from the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s 2012-13 Young Investigator Training Award to establish translational research in regenerative stem cell therapies in Indiana. In addition, Dr. Gangaraju also received $50,000 from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, plus an additional $10,000 from the Cryptic Mason’s Medical Research Foundation and Knights Templar Eye Foundation of Wisconsin for his research involving stem cell treatments for blindness in children.
“This funding is crucial to allow our researchers to continue their work on glaucoma and other potentially blinding eye diseases,” said Louis B. Cantor, M.D., chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute. “We’re particularly thrilled with the National Eye Institute funding in excess of $1 million for Dr. Sun’s research. We could not do this without support from the Indiana CTSI and Knights Templar Eye Foundation, as both groups have provided research funding for our faculty in the past.”
Dr. Sun’s grant provides $204,706 annually for five years. He is an assistant professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Glick Eye Institute. (Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number KO8EY022058. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.)
“Glaucoma is a leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world, yet the mechanisms of glaucoma development remain poorly understood, and treatments are limited,” Dr. Sun said.
“I’m hoping to understand the mechanism of inherited congenital glaucoma, in the hopes that this will provide insight and potentially lead to novel treatments for commonly seen forms of glaucoma,” said Dr. Sun, a clinician-scientist.
Dr. Samuels, who also does research on glaucoma, is a clinician-scientist who combines his background in neuroscience research with his clinical expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with glaucoma. He is focusing his efforts on the role of the central nervous system in glaucoma and how the disease progresses once it has been diagnosed.
“Traditionally, we are taught that glaucoma is a disease of the eye,” Dr. Samuels said. “However, my research is trying to push beyond that dogma and examine glaucoma as not just a disease of the eye, but a disease of the brain as well. Ophthalmologists and researchers have recently discovered that fluctuation or variation in eye pressure over time puts a patient at risk for their glaucoma to get worse.”
Dr. Samuels said he believes his lab has identified a key region within the brain that may be regulating some of these fluctuations in eye pressure.
“As we learn more about how this area within the brain works, we may be able to create novel drug therapies targeting this region of the brain to help slow the progression of glaucoma in our patients,” he said. Dr. Samuels is an assistant professor of ophthalmology in the Department of Ophthalmology at the Glick Eye Institute.
Dr. Gangaraju, an assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology, Department of Cellular & Integrative Physiology and the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine, has begun investigations into regenerative stem cell therapies in the eye which may relate to clinical treatments for diabetic retinopathy, for macular degeneration and for children who are low birth-weight and subsequently develop retinal problems.
“Retinal degeneration is the leading cause of untreatable blindness in the world,” Dr. Gangaraju said. “Regenerative medicine holds the hope for future treatments and cures into changing the course of retinal damage. These new discoveries and treatments may translate into new therapies which can help growing population and demographics of patients.”
“It is exciting to see our researchers achieving this level of success,” Dr. Cantor said. “Our challenge from our benefactor, Marilyn Glick, was to find cures for causes of blindness. These outstanding scientists are dedicated to that goal.”
# # #
The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute at the IU School of Medicine on the IUPUI campus is home to the IU Health Ophthalmology Center and the Glick Eye Institute Optical Services and Eyewear shop, along with research labs operated by faculty members. The Glick Eye Institute also staffs eye clinics at Spring Mill Medical Building on the north side of Indianapolis, at Franciscan St. Francis Hospital in Mooresville and at Witham Health Services in Lebanon. Information about the institute, faculty physicians and their specialties, and the research being conducted, is available at www.glick.iu.edu. For appointments, call (317) 274-2020 or (877) 224-8393.