Brahim Chaqour, PhD, professor of cell biology and ophthalmology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, has received two awards to support research into treatment of currently incurable vision-threatening diseases. The new awards, totaling $2,008,973, are from the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, president of SUNY Downstate, said, "This funding recognizes the strength of medical research at SUNY Downstate and the contributions our campus makes in the fight against the most challenging illnesses, including diseases that are especially prevalent in the populations we serve."
Dr. Chaqour's research centers on neovascular and fibrovascular diseases of the eye, including retinopathy of prematurity, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related-macular degeneration, which are major causes of blindness affecting all age groups. Dr. Chaqour's projects focus on the identification of new markers of disease states in their earliest stages, and on therapeutic targets to stop or reverse disease processes. The funding will support existing activities and further promising new research efforts.
Dr. Chaqour notes that most diseases that cause catastrophic loss of vision do so as a result of vascular loss and subsequent formation of abnormal blood vessel and scarring, often as a result of ischemia, diabetes, ageing and/or chronic inflammation. Neovascular growth is associated with vascular leakage, hemorrhage and fibrosis which disrupt the highly ordered tissue architecture in the eye and lead to mechanical disruption of the visual axis and progressive vision loss.
An improved understanding of inflammation, wound healing, and angiogenesis has led to the development of drugs effective in modulating these pathological processes and, in certain circumstances, the preservation of vision. Unfortunately, such pharmacological interventions often are either too little, too late, or plagued by insurmountable side effects so much that vision loss and other organ malfunctions unavoidably occur.
Dr. Chaqour's lab has emphasized the identification of novel markers of neovascular and fibrotic diseases and design of relevant drugs and effective delivery systems to prevent vascular loss and preserve vascular integrity and barrier function. Dr. Chaqour and his group introduced a systematic methodology to identify putative endogenous extracellular matrix-derived antiangiogenic and antifibrotic markers and validated these predictions in vitro and in in vivo models of transgenesis and targeted gene deletions.