Thursday, May 17, 2007
Eye Institute director receives $2 million for researchFrank Giblin, director of the Eye Research Institute at Oakland University, has received a five-year National Eye Institute award for his project, “Proteins of Normal and Cataractous Lenses.” Collaborating with a number of researchers, including two from William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Giblin will study proteins and oxygen levels in the lens, in relation to the formation of age-related cataracts.
More than 10 million cataract surgeries are performed around the world each year for the removal of a number of different types of cataracts. Giblin’s research indicates that elevated levels of oxygen in the lens may play a role in the development of blinding nuclear cataracts, which leaves its sufferers with blurry, cloudy vision in the center of their lens.
The eye requires a sensitive balance of oxygen within various parts of the eye. When an increased level of oxygen occurs in the lens, proteins within the lens begin to bond into large aggregates, which scatter light and lead to loss of vision.
“We’re trying to understand why lens proteins aggregate together in that way when oxygen is present at higher levels,” Giblin said.
There are a few known causes for the cataracts that occur throughout the world, including smoking, exposure to sunlight and malnutrition. The effect of elevated levels of lens oxygen is relatively unresearched.
“As we get older, our vitreous humor (the gel behind the lens) begins to liquefy,” Giblin said. “The hypothesis we are going to test is whether or not this liquefaction is tied to an increase of oxygen in the lens occurring from oxygen that migrates through the vitreous space from the retina.”
In addition, Giblin will also examine whether as humans grow older, separation of vitreous humor from the retina provides a way for oxygen to enter into the lens from the back of the eye. Giblin is studying whether vitrectomy surgery, which is commonly performed to treat various retinal disorders such as retinal detachment, could also increase oxygen flow from the back of the eye into the lens and increase the risk for cataracts.
Along with collaborating with researchers from a number of other universities, Giblin has teamed with Polly Quiram and Michael Trese, retinal surgeons from Beaumont Hospitals who have been assisting with measurement of oxygen in the vitreous humor and lens, and the injection of certain enzymes into the vitreous humor as a possible enzymatic replacement for vitrectomy surgery.
Giblin’s research will also study the binding of a small antioxidant molecule, glutathione, to lens proteins in relation to cataracts, and the role of sunlight, or more specifically UVA rays, in cataracts.
The grant, which last for five years, will fund research on the cause of nuclear cataract. Each year, Giblin must file a progress report with the National institutes of Health and publish his findings in respected scientific journals.
There are four or five other researchers in the world studying nuclear cataract, and Giblin said that in order for his research to be funded by the NIH, the studies have to be unique and designed to significantly advance our knowledge of how nuclear cataracts develop.
For more information on eye research at Oakland University, visit the Eye Research Institute website.