Dr. Nduka Enemchukwu, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of ophthalmology at Baylor College of Medicine, has been awarded a grant from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc. to support his research on blinding disease in children.
The $65,000 grant will help support Enemchukwu’s research to prevent retinal degeneration in children, and focus on the treatment of Leber Congenital Amaurosis 1 (LCA1).
LCA1 is the most severe form of childhood-onset inherited blinding disease and is typically diagnosed in the first year of life with clinical presentation of severe vision loss, “dancing eyes” and reduced pupil response to light.
The retina is the light-sensing tissue at the back of the eye that enables vision by transmitting electrical signals to the brain. This tissue is made up of rod and cone cells that work together to detect lighting, color and motion. In LCA1 patients, the retinal cone cells responsible for sharp, central vision needed for driving and reading are dysfunctional or dying.
Recent findings by Dr. Yingbin Fu, associate professor and the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Endowed Chair in Ophthalmology at Baylor, and Enemchukwu’s mentor, suggest that retinal cone degeneration in LCA1 is caused by pathological protein aggregation.
“Dr. Enemchukwu is a new star for the Cullen Eye Institute. He is asking the right questions and will undoubtedly help those patients with LCA1, a devastating disease,” said Dr. Timothy Stout chair of ophthalmology at Baylor and director of the Cullen Eye Institute at Baylor. “He has made significant discoveries about the disease mechanism of LCA1. His research on LCA1 is highly innovative and may lead to a breakthrough in treatment strategies.”
Enemchukwu will use a novel small molecule drug structured to block aggregation to prevent cone degeneration.
The Knights Templar Eye Foundation has donated over $140 million for research, patient care and education. The organization seeks to provide young researchers with the resources necessary to help make advances in pediatric ophthalmology.
“We are very grateful for the generous support from the Foundation,” said Stout. “I am also a previous awardee of the Knights Templar award. I recalled that it has made quite a positive impact on my career path. I expect this award will do the same for Dr. Enemchukwu.”