|[February 18, 2014]
Moran Eye Center Researcher Dr. Wolfgang Baehr and Collaborators Discover Vital Relationship between Thyroid Hormones and Macular Degeneration
SALT LAKE CITY --(Business Wire)--
The University of Utah's John A. Moran Eye Center announced today that
Wolfgang B. Baehr, Ph.D. - Professor of Ophthalmology, Adjunct Professor
of Biology and Neurobiology and Anatomy - and a team of six researchers
from the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, and researchers
from the National Eye Institute (NEI (News - Alert)) have discovered a link between
lower levels of thyroid hormones and reduced damage to photoreceptor
cone cells in mouse models with retinal degeneration. Age-related
macular degeneration and other retinal diseases are the result of damage
to cone cells in the eyes.
The study, titled "Suppressing thyroid hormone signaling preserves cone
photoreceptors in mouse models of retinal degeneration," is featured in
the Proceedings of the National
Academy of Sciences, one of the world's most-cited
multidisciplinary scientific publications.
Photoreceptor cells, found in the back of the eye (the retina), are made
up of rods and cones that respond to light, colors and shapes. They are
necessary for human sight. In many retinal diseases, including
age-related macular degeneration, vision loss occurs because the cone
cells degenerate. Unfortunately, there is currently no cure available
for macular degeneration.
Thyroid hormones are essential to proper development and differentiation
of all cells in the human body. The process of producing thyroid
hormones and delivering them to the retina through the bloodstream is
called thyroid hormone signaling. In previous studies, researchers
discovered that excess thyroid hormone signaling caused cones to
degenerate and die. Dr. Baehr, together with the Olahoma and NEI
researchers, discovered that when thyroid hormone signaling was reduced
in mouse models, cones were preserved and the retina did not degenerate
in mouse models with retinal degeneration.
What is the potential significance for patient care? This discovery may
one day provide doctors with an additional approach to the management of
patients with retinal degeneration. "This is a great honor for me and
the Moran Eye," Baehr said. "Working with such talented researchers will
further our understanding of photoreceptor signaling and disease
progression. We hope to discover ways to sustain cone viability in the
eyes of individuals with macular degeneration and other retinal
In addition to Baehr, the study was co-authored by Hongwei Ma, Arjun
Thapa, Xi-Quin Ding and Lynsie Morris of the University of Oklahoma
Heath Sciences Center; and T. Michael Redmond of the Laboratory of
Retinal Cell and Molecular Biology at the National Eye Institute. The
research was supported by generous grants from the National Eye
Institute, the National Center for Research Resources, and the Oklahoma
Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology.
"Dr. Baehr has received international respect and acclaim, making him an
indispensable asset to our team," said Dr. Randall J Olson, Moran Eye
Center CEO and Chair, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences,
University of Utah Health Care. "Being published in Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences is an accomplishment in
itself, but more importantly, he and the other researchers have
hypothesized and then discovered promising results that someday could be
a crucial link in treating diseases of the retina."
About Moran Eye Center
The Moran Eye Center is the largest eye care and vision research center
in the Intermountain West, and is part of the University of Utah
Hospitals and Clinics. With collaborators from around the world,
research advancements provide new diagnoses, novel treatments and
creative new procedures designed to cure blinding eye diseases.
Treatments and procedures at the Moran Eye Center address a wide range
of eye problems, such as age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma,
cataracts, cornea, neuro-ophthalmology, oculoplastic surgery and
external eye diseases. The Moran Eye Center provides the latest advances
in LASIK and refractive surgery, as well as a full range of optometry
services, including contact lenses and eyeglasses.
About Wolfgang Baehr, Ph.D.
Dr. Baehr is the Ralph and Mary Tuck Professor of Ophthalmology and
Visual Sciences, Moran Eye Center, with adjunct appointments in
Neurobiology and Anatomy and Biology. Dr. Baehr received the prestigious
ALCON Award in 2013 and will receive the Proctor Medal at the 2014
annual meeting of the Association for Research in Vision & Ophthalmology
(ARVO) Conference. Moran CEO Dr. Randall J Olson said this about Dr.
Baehr receiving the Proctor Medal: "This award is the oldest and most
prestigious recognition of visual research in the country. It is fitting
that Dr. Baehr is being honored for his contributions toward improving
our understanding of retinal disease. His work has far-reaching impacts
for bettering the visual health of people around the world."
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