A Wayne State University scientist researching how to fight a chronic inflammatory condition of the eye that can lead to loss of vision has secured his third significant grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Professor of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences Susmit Suvas, Ph.D., is the principal investigator for the four-year project, “CXCR4: A potential therapeutic target in HSK,” which will be funded by the National Eye Institute for $1.54 million through May 31, 2027.
The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health has continuously funded Dr. Suvas’s research on herpes stromal keratitis, or HSK, since 2009. HSK is a chronic inflammatory condition that can develop in response to Herpes simplex virus-1 infection of the cornea, the outermost eye part.
Transparency of the cornea is essential for the clarity of the vision. However, during the development of HSK, the cornea develops new leaky blood vessels, known as neovascularization of the cornea, Dr. Suvas said. “These new leaky blood vessels can bring immune cells into the inflamed cornea, resulting in corneal scarring and opacity. If not treated immediately, this can cause a loss of vision.”
The condition is currently managed with topical corticosteroids several times a day, for several weeks.
“The considerable side effects of the long-term use of corticosteroids prompted us to find an alternative effective treatment for HSK,” he said.
Using the new grant, the Suvas lab will look at the involvement of a specific chemokine receptor, CXCR4, in promoting the development of new blood vessels in the cornea and the retention of infiltrated immune cells in inflamed cornea.
“Chemokine receptors are considered highly promising drug targets for inflammatory medical conditions. We anticipate that blocking CXCR4 signaling in HSV-1 infected cornea will inhibit the development of new blood vessels and traffic the infiltrated immune cells out of the inflamed cornea, improving vision clarity in these eyes,” he said.
Dr. Suvas is grateful for this third nod of support from the National Eye Institute, which also provides funding for two additional projects focused on the management of HSK, specifically targeting the metabolic needs of immune cells.
“Extramural funding is an essential component of the scientific research. It feels great to have three R01 grants. I am thankful to the National Eye Institute for recognizing our research and funding our projects for the last 14 years,” he said. “I am also grateful to my lab personnel, especially Dr. Pratima Suvas, research scientist, for generating the preliminary results for this grant application. Dr. Pratima Suvas has published these findings in a high-impact peer-reviewed journal, The Ocular Surface. Last but not least, I appreciate the support of Dr. Mark Juzych, chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, Visual and Anatomical Sciences, and Dr. Linda Hazlett, vice dean for Research and Graduate Programs. in providing a research-conducive environment at the Wayne State University School of Medicine.”
The number for this National Institutes of Health grant is R01EY035540.