Pictured from left are the School of Medicine's Mark Juzych, M.D.; Tomomi Ichinose, M.D., Ph.D.; Ashok Kumar, Ph.D.; Pawan Kumar Singh, Ph.D.; and Linda Hazlett, Ph.D.
Representatives from Eversight Center for Eye and Vision Research, a global nonprofit network of eye banks headquartered in Ann Arbor, Mich., visited the Wayne State University School of Medicine on Aug. 20 to present two Eye and Vision Research Grants totaling $40,000 to research scientists Tomomi Ichinose, M.D., Ph.D., and Pawan Kumar Singh, Ph.D., of the school's Department of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences.
The two were among five recipients of grants from Eversight for projects that aligned with the organization's mission to restore sight and prevent blindness. The awards were determined by an independent review panel composed of distinguished scientists, ophthalmologists and health services researchers.
Dr. Ichinose, an assistant professor at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, is studying neural networks in the central retina, a small portion of the eye where an individual's gazing point is sensed in detail, such as the wrinkles on a face or the tiny movements of a bug. In the central retina, photoreceptors are densely packed to provide these high-resolution images, but there remains many questions as to how these cells form retinal networks because of the complexity of communication between cell types. She will use donated post-mortem human eyes to explore the neural networks in the central retina and obtain a more precise understanding that could lead to new disease therapies and retinal prostheses.
Dr. Singh, a research scientist in the lab of Associate Professor Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., is investigating the role of the Zika virus in glaucoma pathobiology. ZIKV is an emerging viral pathogen that can result in severe ocular complications in newborn infants born to Zika-infected mothers.
Glaucoma is mainly considered a genetic and age-related disease, and has not been reported among infants exposed to any kind of infection during gestation. Dr. Singh's research addresses the need to investigate the link between ZIKV and glaucoma to develop new prognostic and therapeutic tools to combat the global health threat.
"I'm appreciative of the awards given today," said Vice Dean of Research Linda Hazlett, Ph.D. "These awards remain integral to our efforts here at Wayne State University and support data collection that will lead to R01 submissions within the year."
The gathering also served to recognize the longstanding partnership between Eversight and the School of Medicine, which dates to 1955, while also celebrating the scientists' work.
"Eversight is proud to support the innovative work of Drs. Ichinose and Singh," said Gregory Grossman, Eversight's director of Research. "For almost four decades, Eversight has been committed to funding research that has the potential to impact patient care. Understanding emerging diseases that threaten eyesight, such as the Zika virus, or contributing to our knowledge base of how the human eye processes visual information, are important scientific endeavors we are dedicated to supporting."
Eversight has many ties to Detroit, the university and the Kresge Eye Institute. It provides many of the whole eyes and much of the ocular tissue for research and education at WSU. It also recovers and prepares corneal transplant tissue for most KEI and WSU transplant surgeons, and has provided regular research grant funding since 1980.