Massachusetts Grand Officers of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation came to Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School to present two checks for their $65,000 Pediatric Ophthalmology Career-Starter Research Grant. One went to Alessandro Di Gioia, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Neurology Department and the other to Chi-Hsiu Liu, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Ophthalmology Deptartment.
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is clinically characterized by abnormal blood vessel proliferation, which can lead to retinal detachment. MicroRNAs are known to regulate many biological processes, including the formation of new vessels. Using the mouse model, Dr. Liu’s grant proposal, “The Role of microRNA-145 in Retinopathy of Prematurity,” will assess whether miR-145 regulates abnormal vessel proliferation by repressing certain genes in the lining of the vessels as well as identify the underlying mechanisms. Dr. Liu’s area of expertise is neuroscience with respect to development of blood vessels and nerves in the eye. She is a member of the research group in the Ophthalmology Department led by Jing Chen, PhD, which specializes in the cellular and molecular mechanisms of such eye diseases.
Duane Retraction Syndrome (DRS) is clinically characterized by limited globe abduction and retraction of the globe on attempted adduction, causing paralytic eye movement. Dr. Di Gioia’s grant proposal, “Dissecting the genetic basis of Duane retraction syndrome using zebrafish,” will generate and characterize known mutations in DRS in zebrafish, then test variants identified by genomic analysis in the same model organism to determine which ones cause DRS. Dr. Di Gioia is a geneticist and a member of the research group in the Neurology Department let by Elizabeth Engle, MD, which specializes in studying congenital cranial disorders, disorders of nerve growth and guidance, and genetic studies of strabismus (abnormal eye alignment).
The Knights Templar is a Masonic fraternal organization founded in the 11th century. Originally, they were laymen who protected and defended Christians travelling to Jerusalem, and were renowned for their fierceness and courage. Today, the Knights display their courage and goodwill in other ways, raising millions of dollars for medical research and educational assistance. The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. is a charity sponsored by the (US) Grand Encampment of Knights Templar and founded in 1956. Its mission is “To improve vision through research education, and supporting access to care.”
Each year the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. invites eligible investigators to submit applications for pediatric ophthalmology research grants. Clinical and basic research on conditions that may be potentially preventable or correctable is encouraged. Career-Starter Research Grant recipients must be at the beginning of their academic careers and must have received an MD, PhD, or an equivalent degree.
Boston Children’s Hospital is a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, one of the largest academic pediatric facilities in the world, and home to the world's largest and most active research enterprise at a pediatric center. The Department of Ophthalmology at Boston Children's Hospital is the largest pediatric ophthalmology service in the world.
Jane Patrick, Science Writer
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