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FAU Researcher Receives $1.6 Million NIH Grant to Investigate Ways to Repair Age-related Eye Diseases

BOCA RATON, FL (March 11, 2010) Florida Atlantic University researcher, Dr. Marc Kantorow, professor of biomedical sciences in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, has received a RO1 grant renewal of $1.6 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to investigate natural eye repair systems that could be used to treat age-related eye diseases.

With this grant, Kantorow and his colleagues will seek to understand why an important eye lens protein needed for vision is damaged by aging and how naturally occurring repair proteins can restore it. Loss of the function of these proteins, called molecular chaperones, causes age-related cataracts and is believed to be involved in a multitude of diseases ranging from age-related macular degeneration to Alzheimer’s disease.  Kantorow and his colleagues have discovered that these molecular chaperones lose their activity during the aging process, but that a class of repair enzymes called methionine sulfoxide reductases (MsrA) can repair them and restore their activity.   

MsrA is essential for ocular defense against oxidative stress, viability and defense against cataract formation,” said Kantorow. “We have discovered that MsrA maintains the function of molecular chaperones in the eye, which when damaged, cause ocular diseases. 

Information gained from this research may have the potential to discover the events that cause age-related disease and also provide clues into the development of treatment therapies for these diseases by manipulating the levels and activities of the naturally occurring eye repair systems.

Kantorow’s research holds promise to find alternative treatments for two of the most prevalent ocular diseases that afflict so many worldwide – cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision. Most cataracts are related to aging and are common in older people. More than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery by the age of 80.  AMD is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision which is needed for seeing objects clearly and for common daily tasks such as reading and driving. AMD affects the macula, the part of the eye that allows you to see fine detail.

“This discovery gives us insight into how increasing the levels and activities of these eye proteins could be used to treat and prevent cataracts and AMD. It also gives us hope that therapies for these diseases can be developed using natural protective and repair systems,” said Kantorow.

Currently, the only therapy for the treatment of cataracts is surgery, and to date, no cures exist for the majority of age-related macular degeneration cases.

- FAU -

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Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts 10 colleges:  College of Architecture, Urban & Public Affairs, Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Biomedical Science, the College of Business, the College of Education, the College of  Engineering & Computer Science, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Graduate College, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. For more information, visit

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