$3.5 Million Grant to Study Disease Causing Vision Loss in Children

Autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA) is a rare genetic disease that causes progressive and irreversible vision loss in both eyes starting in the first decade of life. There is currently no treatment for ADOA, which affects approximately 3 people per 100,000 worldwide.

UC Davis researchers will use a new 3.5 million grant from the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to develop a nonhuman primate model of ADOA to speed the development and testing of treatments for humans.

Sara Thomasy, professor of comparative ophthalmology at UC Davis in the Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine and core scientist at the California National Primate Research Center, will lead the cross-disciplinary team developing this new model over the next five years. 

“Optic neuropathies are common causes of blindness worldwide, affect the lives of millions, and currently lack effective treatments to restore vision,” said Thomasy.

ADOA typically affects children before the age of ten. The severity of the disease varies, and acuity can range from normal to legal blindness. A significant limitation to the development of effective treatments is the need for an animal model that accurately replicates the human condition. Nonhuman primates have similar optic nerve and retinal anatomy to humans, making them a uniquely powerful model for this disease. 

“Our goal is to develop a comprehensive animal model of ADOA that will be a highly valuable resource for the vision science and neurodegenerative disease communities as a translational gateway to human clinical trials,” said Thomasy.

Co-investigators and collaborators on this study include Eliza Bliss-Moreau, UC Davis Department of Psychology and California National Primate Research Center and Ala Moshiri and Nick Marsh-Armstrong the UC Davis Department of Ophthalmology and Vision Science, in conjunction with Baylor College of Medicine and Devers Eye Institute.

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Messiah Foster is manager of public information at the California National Primate Research Center. 

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