August 14, 2020

Dr. Suvas earns second R01 to explore cornea-based complication of herpes simplex virus-1

Susmit Suvas, Ph.D.
Susmit Suvas, Ph.D.

A faculty member in the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, Vision and Anatomical Sciences will use a new five-year, $1.88 million grant from the National Eye Institute to study how better to fight a chronic inflammation of the cornea that often leads to vision loss.

Associate Professor Susmit Suvas, Ph.D., is the principal investigator of “Role of insulin-like growth factor binding proteins in the pathogenesis of herpes stromal keratitis.”

Herpes simplex virus-1, or HSV-1, is an infection of the cornea that can cause the development of herpes stromal keratitis, a chronic inflammatory condition. HSK is a major cause of infection-induced vision loss in the United States, said Dr. Suvas, who also serves as the graduate officer of the Anatomy and Cell Biology Graduate Program.

Clinical signs of HSK include the development of new leaky blood vessels in a once-clear and transparent cornea. Newly formed leaky blood vessels bring a massive influx of immune cell types, such as neutrophils. These immune cells persist in the inflamed cornea and cause damage to corneal tissue. As a result, the cornea becomes opaque and thick.

“The long-term goal of our research is to understand the pathogenesis of herpes stromal keratitis so that novel therapeutic approaches can be developed to better manage the condition of HSK and reduce the loss of vision,” Dr. Suvas said.

“The focus of our current grant application is to understand the role of insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3) in inhibiting the survival of immune cells and development of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) in HSV-1 infected corneas," he added.

The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health has continuously funded Dr. Suvas’s research on herpes stromal keratitis since 2009.

“It is a great feeling to have simultaneously two five-year R01s supporting our research to understand the pathogenesis of HSK,” he said. “We anticipate that at the end of our study we will have a clear understanding of how IGFBP-3 protein reduces viral load, hemangiogenesis, and the survival and effector function of neutrophils in HSK developing corneas.”

The grant number for this award is EY030129.