Gorbatyuk awarded grant for retinal degeneration research

A School of Optometry researcher is beginning a study that could help uncover therapies to slow or stop vision loss.

marina gorbatyuk webA researcher at the UAB School of Optometry has been awarded a $1.25 million R01 grant from the National Eye Institute to study the regulation of protein synthesis in photoreceptors of mice with inherited retinal degeneration.

This research, led by Marina Gorbatyuk, Ph.D., associate professor of vision science, will lead to a better understanding of vision loss in humans, and promote the development of new strategies for stopping retinal degeneration.

Gorbatyuk’s study will look at molecules that govern the rate of protein biosynthesis in the retinas of mice mimicking human inherited retinal degeneration. Because of the expression of aberrant proteins in the biosynthesis that is present with retinal degeneration, the cells of the retina experience stress. That chronic cellular stress activates an unfolded protein response in the photoreceptors and inhibits protein synthesis altogether, ultimately resulting in vision loss. Gorbatyuk plans to target and reprogram the response, which could slow photoreceptor cell death or even stop it.

As a result of the study, targeted therapies could be developed to slow or stop vision loss.

“If successful, this study will not only enhance our molecular understanding of how degenerating photoreceptors die, but also create a platform for therapeutic intervention to halt inherited retinal degeneration progression in humans,” Gorbatyuk said.