DEF Supports Research In Preventing Ocular Herpes And Infectious Blindness

The Discovery Eye Foundation (DEF) announces their support and progress in the research of Ocular Herpres and Infectious Blindness. Their research continues to bring them closer to understanding new medical approaches, therapies and the molecular mechanisms of Ocular Herpes. Advancements have also been made in developing a new vaccine that would eventually prevent the spread of the Herpes Simplex Virus of the eye and genital tract.

Founded in 1970 by Rita and Morris Pynoos, the Discovery Eye Foundation is dedicated to finding cures and treatments for corneal and retinal eye disease. As a vital catalyst for discovery and research, they work to provide the public with up-to-the-minute and relevant information through patient outreach and patient care. DEF also supports potentially groundbreaking translational basic and applied eye research involving the retina and cornea – particularly diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa, glaucoma, diseases of the aging eye, and corneal diseases including ocular herpes, keratoconus and other degenerative conditions. DEF’s funds impact a wide variety of vision-related research programs.

Among DEF’s priority is funding a research program to combat the blinding effects of ocular herpes virus infection, which is related to the Herpes Simplex Virus of the genital tract. The research and technology being used by DEF for Ocular Herpes may be applicable to preventing genital Herpes one day. Infection with Herpes results in lifelong “latent” infection that can result in repeated recurrences. DEF’s scientists are taking several approaches toward this worldwide problem.

Drs. Steven Wechsler and Dale Carpenter, supported by DEF and the National Institute of Health (NIH), have made progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms of ocular herpes including its latency, reactivation, recurrence, and scarring. DEF supported scientists continue to gain an understanding of LAT, the major virus gene active during herpes latency, including its central molecular role in keeping the virus latent between attacks. They are looking for ways to eradicate the lifelong latent infection.

Dr. Lbachir BenMohamed, whose research is being funded by DEF and the NIH, is investigating how the herpes simplex virus escapes our natural immune system, which is another way the virus remains a lifelong concern. Understanding and harnessing this immune process could lead to therapies to eradicate this chronic infection.

Drs. Anthony Nesburn, who is the Medical Director of DEF, and BenMohamed are currently developing a novel vaccine that would provide an effective and less costly means of preventing and treating ocular herpes. The underlying rationale for these grants is to understand and eventually eradicate debilitating Herpes Simplex Virus of the eye and genital tract. Their findings are currently being evaluated in pre-clinical studies.

Drs. Wechsler and James Jester have developed a powerful new approach to understanding how herpes infection causes corneal scarring through funding provided by DEF and the NIH. This approach may well lead to new ways to save the vision of those with ocular herpes-a major cause of corneal blindness worldwide.

The Discover Eye Foundation