Dr. Colleen McDowell, a researcher at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, was one of this year’s five BrightFocus awardees for her work on glaucoma. The Foundation awarded the scientists with $3.5 million at an Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting.
“Each year we give these awards in recognition of the most promising and forward-thinking ideas in the fields of glaucoma and macular degeneration research. These special grant awards are funded in honor of exceptional people who fought these diseases and wanted to support outstanding researchers,” said Stacy Pagos Haller, BrightFocus president and CEO, in a press release.
Dr. McDowell, a Research Assistant Professor at UNTHSC, is studying Glaucoma, an ocular disorder that involves increased pressure in the eyes, which occurs when the ocular fluid is not properly drained within ocular channels. McDowell received the grant from the BrightFocus Foundation for her research project, “Crosstalk of TGF-beta and TLR4 pathways in the trabecular meshwork,” wherein she and her research team is “studying a novel pathway and working to understand how these drainage structures work,” according to a BrightFocus news release. McDowell received $100,000 in grant funds from the Foundation’s Dr. Douglas H. Johnson Award for Glaucoma Research, an annual award given “to the top-rated research proposal in glaucoma, in honor of Dr. Johnson’s years of service as chairman of the Scientific Revew Committee for Glaucoma.”
In addition to her current research, Dr. McDowell has also engaged in other funded Glaucoma-related projects, such as her work last year, entitled, “Retina Ganglion Cell Subtype Specific Cell Death in a Mouse Model of Human Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma,” which aimed to understand the injuries glaucoma causes to the eyes through analyzing the visual sensing structures in the eye and brain.
Dr. Christopher Passaglia was also awarded for his work on glaucoma. The researcher from the University of South Florida is developing a smart pump to measure and control eye pressure for researchers and clinicians.
Dr. Debra Thompson from the University of Michigan was awarded for her investigation on macular degeneration. She is working on a protein that could control inflammatory responses in the retina.
Dr. Debasish Sinha from Johns Hopkins University received the award for a research on how autophagy and phagocytosis activates the immune system in retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE). Dr. Douglas Vollrath, a researcher from Stanford University, received an award based on his studies on the genetics of RPE cells.