Eye Research Institute receives grant for retinal research

Eye Research Institute receives grant for retinal research

Cameron Atkinson, Ph.D candidate in biomedical and biological science, sits inside the ERI darkroom, normally illuminated with several red tinted lights. The room is commonly used for research on mouse retinas.
By Kelli M. Titus

Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences Dao-Qi Zhang, was awarded a $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for his research on retinal function.

The NIH grant will provide Zhang, of the Eye Research Institute, and Oakland University with the funding over a five-year period. The money will be used to further Zhang’s research efforts, including the purchase of new equipment.

Zhang’s research focuses on a specific retinal neuron called the dopaminergic neuron, which produces and releases dopamine. Since the retina is a part of the body’s central nervous system, a dopamine deficiency can cause neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, drug addiction, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and diabetic retinopathy. Efficient exploration of this ocular neuron will give researchers a better understanding of these diseases.

A Ph.D. candidate in biomedical and biological sciences, Cameron Atkinson worked alongside Zhang during his research and preparations for the grant. The duo spent three years developing the grant, spending the majority of that time collecting data to support their research.

“There’s a lot of preliminary data (involved),” Atkinson said. “You have to have a good story to show that you’re able to do some of these experiments and have the ability to continue to do more.”

Dao-Qi Zhang, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences

Once the plan for the grant is constructed and the data gathered, the grant is written and submitted to a review committee. This group of experts gives suggestions on how to enhance the grant; revisions are made by Zhang and Atkinson; and the document is resubmitted. In December of 2013, their work was rewarded with a notification of grant approval.

Over the next five years, Zhang says he will have to work hard to get the research done, but hopes to eventually renew the grant in order to continue his studies.

“We’re doing eye research, that’s for sure, but the research we’re doing is also about neuroscience,” Zhang said.

The Eye Research Institute studies the underlying causes of eye diseases. Located on the fourth floor of Dodge Hall, it allows science majors the opportunity to work alongside their full-time faculty and research associates. Zhang has been a part of the ERI for four years.

“A lot of students don’t realize that there are a lot of opportunities to do research at Oakland,” Atkinson said. She encourages any students interested to check out the ERI and all that is has to offer.

To learn more about Oakland University’s Eye Research Institute visit oakland.edu/eri.