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Dean McGee Eye Institute Researcher Receives National Grant
to Fight Stargardt Disease
For Immediate Release:
August 17, 2011
For More Information Contact:
Jane Braden 405.818.1905
[email protected]
OKLAHOMA CITY—Dean McGee Eye Institute researcher, Dr. Martin-Paul
Agbaga, has been awarded a $40,000 grant by the Knights Templar Eye
Foundation, Inc. for his research on a blinding disease called juvenile autosomal
dominant Stargardt macular dystrophy. This is an inherited blinding disease that
can be catastrophic, causing early childhood blindness in the first two decades of
life with no existing treatment options. Dr. Agbaga is also a Postdoctoral Fellow
in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Oklahoma Health
Sciences Center.
“Dr. Agbaga’s research into a specific and devastating disorder affecting the eyes
of children is already showing promise. This funding will help us catapult our
efforts to find a treatment for the disease to the next level,” said Dr. Gregory
Skuta, Edward L. Gaylord Professor and Chair of the OU Department of
Ophthalmology and President and CEO of the Dean McGee Eye Institute. “Our
research scientists combat blindness on every level - from the gene to the cell to
the clinic – with a caliber of excellence that keeps the Institute among the top in
the nation in attracting grant dollars to fight vision threatening disease and injury.”
In 2008, Dr. Agbaga and Professor Robert E. Anderson, MD, PhD discovered
that the normal protein that is mutated in patients with Stargardt disease is
involved in making a unique group of fatty acids found in the eye. The mutant
protein lacks this ability. Recently, they also discovered that, in the eye, the
mutant protein is misdirected to wrong compartments in photoreceptor cells. Dr.
Agbaga’s work now focuses on better understanding why the presence of the
mutant protein in the eye causes a reduction in this unique group of fatty acids
and triggers the photoreceptor cells to degenerate. With this grant, Dr. Agbaga
and his colleagues will seek treatment options that would prevent vision loss by
keeping the mutant protein from triggering photoreceptor cell death.
“This disease robs children of not only their eyesight but of their vision of the
future. This grant will help us find tools to fight for treatment options for these
young people and hopefully give them a vibrant future of better sight,” stated Dr.
Agbaga. “I am very grateful to Professor Robert E. Anderson for his support and
mentorship over the years. I also sincerely thank the Knights Templar Eye
Foundation Inc., for awarding me this grant to pursue these studies and my
colleagues at the Dean McGee Eye Institute for creating an environment of
critical thinking and pursuit of excellence in research,” said Dr. Agbaga with a
Dr. Agbaga’s research directly focuses an important area of juvenile blindness,
which falls under the mission of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc., stated
Richard Dunaway, Right Eminent Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery
of Oklahoma. “Since its inception, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation has
spent more than $95 million dollars to help provide medical treatment for those
unable to afford it. Today, over 78,000 people have directly benefitted from this
financial assistance. And as always, treatments are provided regardless of race,
color, creed, age, or national origin. Since restructuring the Foundation's
mission, research grants, totaling over $8.7 million, have been made to
institutions working in the field of eye research.”
About Dean McGee Eye Institute
The Dean McGee Eye Institute is one of the largest and most respected eye
institutes in the United States and houses the Department of Ophthalmology for
the OU College of Medicine. Its research and training programs are among the
most highly regarded in the country. More than half of the Institute’s
ophthalmologists and faculty are listed in The Best Doctors in America; its
Director of Vision Research is a Past President of the International Society for
Eye Research; two members of the faculty are recent or current directors of the
American Board of Ophthalmology; two serve on the Board of Trustees of the
American Academy of Ophthalmology; and one recently served as president of
the American Glaucoma Society.
About the Knights Templar Eye Foundation:
The Knights Templar Eye Foundation is committed to support research that can
help launch the careers of clinical or basic researchers committed to the
prevention and cure of potentially blinding diseases in infants and children. We
support clinical or basic research on conditions that can be treated or prevented.
Examples include amblyopia, congenital cataract, congenital glaucoma,
retinopathy of prematurity, ocular malformations, congenital nystagmus, and
other hereditary eye diseases such as retinal dystrophies or retinoblastoma.
Proposals for support of basic research on the eye and development of the visual
system are welcome but must be directly related to pediatric eye diseases.