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NIH Issues Biennial Report With Numerous References to NEI-Funded Vision Research

Legislative Update
January 14, 2009

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has just posted on its Web site the Biennial Report of the Director, NIH, Fiscal Years 2006 & 2007. This is the first biennial report to issue, as required by the NIH Reform Act of 2006 [Public Law 109-482]. Congress required the new biennial report to provide an integrated portrait of NIH research activities. As such, it replaces previous Institute- and Center-based reports.

Congress directed the NIH to report in six major areas:

  • Cancer
  • Neuroscience and Disorders of the Nervous System
  • Infectious Diseases and Biodefense
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Chronic Diseases and Organ Systems
  • Life Stages, Human Development, and Rehabilitation
  • Minority Health and Health Disparities
Due to the relationship of the eye/visual processing to the body, as well as the collaborative nature of the National Eye Instituteís (NEI) research with other Institutes and Centers within the NIH, the references to vision research are numerous and appear throughout the report. Areas of NEI research emphasized include:

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

  • Age-Related Eye Disease Study, Part 2 (AREDS2), which follows up on the original AREDS study which demonstrated that antioxidant vitamin and mineral supplements reduced the progression to advanced AMD by 25 percent.

  • Dietary Control of Angiogenesis in the Eye, which demonstrated that dietary intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces harmful growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis) in the eye.

Glaucoma

  • Factors That Mediate Nerve Degeneration in Glaucoma, specifically studies in mice that suggest a critical role for the protein tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a) in developing glaucoma, which initially damages peripheral vision and leads to blindness.

Genetic Basis of Eye Disease

  • Gene Expression Nervous System Atlas (GENSAT) project, which prescreens the activity of many genes at four developmental time points in several parts of the brain and spinal cord. GENSAT is a resource within the NIH Neuroscience Blueprint that will expend to include nerve cells in the eye, ear, and pain pathways.

  • Gene Therapy for Leberís Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), in which human gene therapy trials are being conducted on humans after initial successful results in dogs. [See summary of June 24, 2008, AEVR/FFB Congressional Briefing on this topic]

  • Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) for AMD, which have linked two genes associated with progression to advanced AMD to increased risk from smoking and increased body weight. [See summary of February 20, 2007, AEVR Congressional Briefing on this topic].

  • National Ophthalmic Disease Genotyping Network (eyeGene), which is a network to conduct diagnostic genetic testing to facilitate research on the genetic basis of eye disease (more than 400 genes are associated with vision loss).

Diabetes