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World Ophthalmology Congress Brings MU Discoveries Into Focus

A University of Missouri research program that examines how nanotechnology could treat corneal diseases will be featured at the 2010 World Ophthalmology Congress from June 5 to June 9, 2010. Rajiv Mohan, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology at the MU School of Medicine, will present how nanoparticles could be paired with therapeutic genes to deliver new treatments to corneal tissue. The promising new therapy could help millions who suffer from corneal scarring, wounds and other conditions.

Mohan was one of only five basic scientists invited to make a presentation at the nanotechnology session of the meeting, which will draw more than 6,000 attendees to Berlin.

“Because the meeting is primarily for physicians to discuss clinical care, basic science research that is presented must be able to translate from the bench to the bedside,” Mohan said. “This selection is a direct reflection of MU’s commitment to translational research in ophthalmology and to discoveries campuswide.”

The cornea is the dome-shaped surface that functions as the eye’s outermost layer. It is the first line of defense in shielding the eye from injury as well as infections. Corneal haze, scarring and abnormal blood vessel development are among the leading causes of vision impairment in the world and affect approximately 1.5 million Americans every year. Abnormal wound healing due to corneal injury or infection has been shown to play a critical role in causing these and other corneal disorders and diseases.

Mohan’s laboratory is researching how hybrid gold nanoparticles and biodegradable polymeric nanoparticles can be used as a nonviral carrier to deliver gene therapy to the cornea. The nanoparticle-based gene therapy has shown minimal side effects in preclinical studies.

“The current nonviral vectors, or gene delivery vehicles, are incapable of delivering therapeutic levels of genes into the cells of the cornea,” Mohan said. “Nanoparticles, because they are smaller, could provide a less invasive option for delivering the gene therapy effectively while reducing the risk of infection and side effects from treatment.”

Mohan’s corneal gene therapy research is funded by more than $2.8 million in grants from the National Eye Institute and Department of Veterans Affairs. The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology recently identified findings from his laboratory as among the “the newest and most innovative” in the field of nanotechnology for drug and gene delivery.

The World Ophthalmology Congress brings together ophthalmologists to enhance education and improve access to the highest quality eye care. More information about its efforts to preserve and restore vision is available at http://www.icoph.org/advancing_leadership/ico_commitments_programs.html