The Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, a partnership between the medical school and University Hospitals, are celebrating the grand opening of their newly renovated Visual Sciences Research Center. Festivities will take place at 4 today, October 29, in the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital Performance Area and Hall.
"Overall, these newly-renovated facilities will enable an expansion of our vision research efforts as the leading vision research center in Ohio and one of the leading centers nationally," said Jonathan H. Lass, M.D., the Charles I. Thomas Professor of Ophthalmology and chair of the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center. "This new center will help us to develop even newer methods to prevent and/or treat blinding disorders like cataract, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and blindness from infections involving the cornea and retina."
The new, consolidated research and administrative space for basic research in the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences and Visual Sciences Research Center in the Institute of Pathology at the School of Medicine comprises a total of 15,000 square feet, accommodating up to eight investigators and their staff.
In addition to laboratories for individual investigators, the first floor of the refurbished center also houses labs for the National Eye Institute-supported Core Grant, providing common shared lab facilities supporting more than 40 investigators in 13 clinical and basic science departments at the School of Medicine and University Hospitals. These investigators collaborate in a multicenter, interdepartmental approach as part of the Visual Sciences Research Center.
Together, University Hospitals and the School of Medicine are receiving more than $9 million in funding on an annual basis from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health, ranking 10th in the United States and No. 1 in Ohio for this funding. Along with the Core Grant, the center receives from NEI a Visual Sciences Training grant, supporting the training of future vision researchers.
The celebration also will honor the appointment of Ram H. Nagaraj as the Carl F. Asseff, M.D., Professor of Ophthalmology. Nagaraj, who has been with the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine since 1987, investigates two major complications of the eye: cataract and diabetic retinopathy. The work on cataracts involves understanding how proteins of the lens are chemically altered during aging and how such modifications lead to protein aggregations and eventually to cloudiness of the lens. Nagaraj's lab is also investigating, using animal models and cultured cells, mechanisms by which cells of the lens die during cataract formation. Their long-term goal is to develop methods to block protein alterations and cell death to prevent this cataract formation.
In the case of diabetic retinopathy, Nagaraj believes that novel treatments for the disease could be developed by understanding how diabetes triggers cell death and how what he terms "anti-apoptotic peptides" could be used to prevent such cell death.
Nagaraj received his master's degree in biosciences with distinction and his Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Mysore, India. He joined the laboratory of Vincent Monnier, professor of pathology and biochemistry at the School of Medicine, nearly 20 years ago.
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