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Researchers Get $2.2M to Study Rare Vision-Loss Disorder

The money comes from NIH.

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BUFFALO, NY — A University at Buffalo ophthalmology researcher has been awarded a $2.2 million grant to study a rare cause of blindness that strikes young children.

The disorder, autosomal recessive retinitis pigmentosa, begins with nighttime vision loss and progresses to total blindness.

The money comes from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The purpose of the grant is to use newly created animal models to better understand and eventually treat the disorder.

The grant was awarded to Steven J. Fliesler, vice chair and director of research in the Department of Ophthalmology in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB; and his co-principal investigator, Steven J. Pittler, professor in the School of Optometry at the University of Alabama-Birmingham and director of its Vision Science Research Center.

Their research targets a specific type of the disorder, called RP59, which starts much earlier in childhood than more common forms of the disease.

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“As in other forms of RP, the retina’s rod photoreceptor cells, which enable us to see dim light and things without color, deteriorate and die, while the cone photoreceptors, which detect color and are used for visual acuity, are typically unaffected until later in the disease course,” Fliesler said. “Ours is the first lab to develop a viable and useful mammalian gene ‘knockout’ model of this human genetic disorder.”

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