Mohammad Dahrouj, MD, PhD, a second-year ophthalmology resident at Harvard Medical School, was selected to receive the 2017 Gragoudas-Folkman Award, which provides up to $20,000 to support residents' multi-year research project. Anthony Adamis, MD, a Mass. Eye and Ear alumnus and Global Head of Ophthalmology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at Genentech/Roche, established the award in 2016 using his portion of the proceeds from the 2014 António Champalimaud Vision Award.
Dr. Dahrouj, originally from Lebanon, earned his MD and PhD through a combined program at American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC). During his PhD, he worked under Craig Crosson, PhD, and Zsolt Ablonczy, PhD, studying the role of retinal pigment epithelium on the development of diabetic macular edema. Using a novel animal model Dr. Dahrouj found that natriuretic peptides form an endogenous system necessary for maintaining the functional integrity of retinal pigment epithelium by protecting against the effect of vascular endothelial growth factor and advanced-glycated-end products. With support from this award, he will be able to extend these findings into the retinal microvasculature and test the hypothesis that C-type natriuretic peptide (CNP) can suppress aberrant angiogenesis in diabetic conditions. This might be the first step in using CNP as therapeutic target for diabetic retinopathy which constitutes the most common cause of blindness in middle-aged subjects accounting for more than 12,000 new cases of blindness in the United States each year.
Dr. Dahrouj will complete this project under the mentorship of Leo Kim, MD, PhD, a retina surgeon and leader and expert in the field of angiogenesis and diabetic retinopathy.