Congratulations to the four scientists and their teams who recently were awarded two-year grants by the Clayco Foundation for RVCL research projects. One theme of these new grants is development of model systems that are critical to determining how cells are damaged by RVCL. A model system also will greatly help development and assessment of new RVCL therapeutics. Other studies will use state-of-the-art new eye imaging techniques or will seek to define the mechanisms causing RVCL disease.Studies by these innovative scientists will significantly expand the investigations into RVCL. The four awardees are:
- David P.J. Hunt, MRCP, PhD a Professor of Neuroinflammatory Medicine and Chair of Neuroinflammatory Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Dr. Hunt will lead a project to create a human-like model system using a new method called microfluidics. This technology has been called ‘revolutionary’ because of its ability miniaturize and speed up testing systems. Others on the team include Sarah McGlasson, PhD, a Post-doctoral Fellow, leading microfluidics expert, Wilbur A. Lam, MD/PhD, Associate Professor at Georgia Institute of Technology/Emory University and David Kavanagh, MRCP, PhD, Professor of Complement Therapeutics, Newcastle University & Director National Renal Complement Therapeutics Centre. Drs. Hunt and Kavanagh have been instrumental in studying, treating and collecting research samples from RVCL patients referred by the National UK Clinic
- Chao Zhou, PhD a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Washington University School of Medicine will lead an effort along with Elena Gracheva, PhD, Research Scientist, to create a RVCL model system using a well-known insect employed in scientific research, Drosophila melanogaster. Because RVCL is a slowly progressing disease that doesn’t manifest until middle age, the “fruit fly” system is an excellent way to model age-related changes as they occur throughout life
- Rajendra S. Apte, MD, PhD a Professor of Opthalmology and Visual Sciences at Washington University School of Medicine. RVCL has devastating effects on eyes, yet this has not been well characterized. Eye specialist, Dr. Apte, is conducting a study to test 50 RVCL patient volunteers with new state-of-the-art noninvasive retinal imaging and visual testing.
- Nicolas Manel, PhD a group leader and INSERM Director of Research, Institut Curie, Paris, France. Dr. Manel is focusing studies on the nucleus of the cell to determine if mutant TREX1 disrupts its normal functioning. Once these “proof-of-concept” studies are completed, Dr. Manel will validate the results in human RVCL cell lines and other models of the disease.