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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 29, 2007
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org

NAEVR COMMUNICATES VALUE OF NEI RESEARCH TO CONGRESSIONAL APPROPRIATORS, CITES STUDY ON PROTECTIVE EFFECT OF OMEGA-3 FATTY ACIDS ON RETINAL DISEASE

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) wrote to Senate and House Appropriations Committee members citing a just-released National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded study which demonstrates the protective effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids against retinopathy (deterioration of the retina) in mice as an example of the types of groundbreaking research that must be adequately funded by the federal government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 appropriations for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) currently being considered by Congress.

In the Senate letter, NAEVR commended the Committee for its June 21 approval of an FY2008 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) appropriations bill that would increase funding for the NIH by $1 billion and NEI by $14.8 million and urged support for its passage when it is considered on the Senate floor (currently unscheduled). In the House letter, NAEVR commended the House LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee for its June 7 approval of an LHHS bill to increase funding for NIH by $750 million and NEI by $9.9 million and urged support for its approval when it is considered by the Committee during the week of July 9.

NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky wrote, “NEI is investigating low-cost and widely available nutrient-based treatment approaches to retinal diseases such as Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) in infants, diabetic retinopathy, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss. This emphasis on disease preemption/prevention is a hallmark of the 21st century paradigm for research within the NIH, as described by its Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni. With research ranging from ROP in infants to AMD in seniors, the NEI affects and benefits Americans at all stages in life, ensuring productivity, independence, and quality of life.”

The NEI study on the protective effect of omega-3 fatty acids, published in the July 2007 edition of the journal Nature Medicine, is important for several reasons. Retinopathy in the mouse shares many characteristics with ROP in humans, a disease of premature infants in which blood vessels proliferate in the retina, leading to bleeding, scarring, and potential blindness. Following up on this finding, NEI will fund a clinical trial to test the effects of omega-3 supplements in premature infants.

The study also found that this disease process may also apply to both diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the latter of which is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans. The NEI is currently conducting the second phase of its Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2), which will assess the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the progression of AMD. The first phase of AREDS demonstrated that antioxidant vitamins and minerals reduced by 25 percent the progression of moderate AMD to the severe stage of the disease.

The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. NAEVR’s goal is to achieve the best vision for all Americans through advocacy and public education for eye and vision research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Eye Institute (NEI), and other federal research entities. Visit NAEVR’s Web site at www.eyeresearch.org.