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New Research to Prevent Eye Diseases

By Jared Rader

October 19, 2009

Photo of James F. McGinnis

James F. McGinnis, professor of cell biology and ophthalmology, works at the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City.

Blindness and other eye diseases could be prevented using nanoparticles, a professor from the OU College of Medicine and a team of researchers have discovered.

James McGinnis has been testing nanoparticles, called Nanoceria, on the vision of rats with good results. McGinnis, professor of cell biology and ophthalmology at the OU College of Medicine and the Dean A. McGee Eye Institute, has been working with scientists from the OU Health Sciences Center and the University of Central Florida to study the nanoparticles.

McGinnis stated in an e-mail Nanoceria could reverse the condition of a blind person as long as the visual cells of the person's eye were still present.

He said OU has a patent on the use of Nanoceria, and he has a goal of bringing the Nanoceria to clinical testing in humans within three years.

"We think the Nanoceria will work as well in humans as they do in our animal models," McGinnis stated in an e-mail. He said he and his team are working to generate data so the FDA will approve human testing.

McGinnis said Nanoceria is made up of cerium oxide nanoparticles that reinforce the normal defenses of the eye against toxic molecules.

The Nanoceria have the ability to destroy these toxic molecules, which are produced in response to mutations, chemicals and diseases.

"We think that most degenerative diseases proceed through a common node – an increase in [reactive oxygen species] – and that this node represents an 'Achilles' heel' for these diseases," McGinnis said.

He said if the reactive oxygen species were destroyed, then all degenerative events, such as blindness, would not occur.

McGinnis and his team published the results of a study with rodents in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The results show a single injection of less than a billionth of a gram of Nanoceria completely protected photoreceptor cells of the eye and preserved vision.

McGinnis also said recent data using a mouse model demonstrated Nanoceria prevented symptoms similar to those found in humans with eye diseases.

Federal stimulus money recently boosted funding for McGinnis' research. The National Institutes of Health, the National Eye Institute, the National Science Foundation, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology also provided funding.

The Research to Prevent Blindness organization awarded McGinnis the Senior Scientific Investigator Award in 2009.

McGinnis said he became interested in eye research because of the benefits it could have on the millions of people affected with vision-impairing diseases.

"Because blindness is such a devastating disease, and because I thought basic research would especially benefit people with inherited retinal degeneration, I changed the focus of my research to degenerative eye disease," McGinnis said.

This article originally appeared in the Oklahoma Daily. Reposted with permission.

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