The Chang Lab – which is part of the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh and has been open just over a year — received a one-year $50,000 Shaffer Grant from the Glaucoma Research Foundation. Principal Investigator and Assistant Professor Kun-Che Chang, PhD, is one of six 2022 recipients. He credited Dr. Takaaki Kuwajima, Research Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology, with whom his lab has worked closely.
Shaffer Grants for Innovative Glaucoma Research are in honor of Glaucoma Research Foundation (GRF) founder Dr. Robert N. Shaffer. The grants continue the longstanding commitment to one-year incubation grants to explore novel and promising ideas in the study of glaucoma, according to the GRF.
Dr. Chang’s project is entitled “A New Therapeutic Gene for RGC Survival and Axon Regeneration in Glaucoma.” In patients with glaucoma or other optic neuropathies, damaged retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) die as their axons degenerate, Dr. Chang explained. Although many regulators have been reported to function in axon regeneration, regrowth of long-distance axons into the chiasm and brain remains a major challenge.
“To obtain the synergistic effects of regulators on axon regeneration, we aim to discover new regulators that control different pathways from those already known, which we can then combine for cotreatment therapy,” Dr. Chang said. “This proposal will assess its role in RGC damage repair using an optic nerve crush (ONC) model. Our strategy is to combine the pharmacologic and gene therapies for promoting RGC survival and axon regeneration, which impacts the field by providing a potential therapy for translational studies in patients with glaucoma and optic neuropathies, hoping that it could improve impacted individuals’ quality of lives.”