Renovated lab to focus on study of eye diseases

Across the globe, 39 million people suffer from blindness, and even more face some form of vision loss. Now, with the help of a $600,000 construction grant from the nonprofit group Research to Prevent Blindness, the University of Florida will renovate existing lab space into a laboratory dedicated solely to producing more effective treatments to prevent vision loss and blindness.

“Having this laboratory space will significantly enhance our ability to conduct essential research into the basic mechanisms of normal vision and disease. It also will offer the resources to develop translational projects that will create new therapies for diabetic retinopathy, age-related macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and other retinal degenerations,” said William T. Driebe, M.D., a professor and chair of ophthalmology in the UF College of Medicine.

The RPB Mildred Krahmer Sanders and William Clifford Sanders Laboratory for Vision Research will be designed specifically for the study of eye diseases. The lab will be equipped with two electrophysiology suites for ultra-sensitive measurements of photoreceptor function in degenerating or rescued retinas, an ocular histology service, confocal and light microscopes, and equipment for testing visual function.

In addition to the upgraded facility, the design and location of it will help increase interaction and collaboration among scientists, Driebe said.

“This new space will create a core facility that will be used by a team of vision researchers,” said John D. Ash, Ph.D., the Francis M. Bullard eminent scholar chair in ophthalmic sciences.

The lab will be named the RPB Sanders Laboratory in honor of the donors Mildred Krahmer Sanders and William Clifford Sanders, who shared an interest in eye research.

“Research to Prevent Blindness is extremely gratified to have collaborated on this forward-thinking gift from the Sanders’ Trust,” said Diane S. Swift, chair of the Board of RPB. “RPB implemented a highly competitive grant application process for this new lab, and we have every confidence that researchers at the University of Florida’s department of ophthalmology will take full advantage of this new resource to work toward cures and treatments at a time when more people are facing the isolating loss of sight.”

The lab is expected to open in 2015.

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April Frawley Lacey

Editor / College of Medicine Science Writer

Editor of The Post and a medical writer in the HSC Office of News & Communications. Before joining the HSC News & Communications staff, she was a reporter and assistant...Read More