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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 1, 2009
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
240-221-2905
jamesj@eyeresearch.org

AEVRís DECADE OF VISION 2010-2020 INITIATIVE HOSTS A CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING ON THE ROBO4 PROTEIN PATHWAY RESEARCH DURING AMD AWARENESS WEEK 2009

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) announced that its Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative will host a Congressional Briefing on the Robo4 Protein Pathway research being conducted to stabilize and reverse vision loss associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). New Developments in AMD Research: Robo4 Protein Pathway will be held Tuesday, September 22, from 12 Noon -1:15 pm in Room B-339 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Contact Dina Beaumont at 202-530-4672 or dinabeau@aol.com to RSVP.

The briefing, held in recognition of International AMD Awareness Week 2009 (September 19-25), is co-sponsored by the Congressional Vision Caucus (CVC), AMD Alliance International, Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), Lighthouse International, and Prevent Blindness America (PBA).

The featured speaker is Kang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., (Shiley Eye Center/University of California San Diego) who collaborated with Dean Li, M.D., Ph.D., (University of Utah), whose laboratory cloned the Robo4 protein in 2003. Drs. Zhang and Li together led the initial study published in March 2008 in Nature Medicine about the beneficial impact of activating the protein to stabilize blood vessels.

Robo4 is a protein found only in cells in the interior surface of blood vessels. Once the protein is activated, it initiates a chain of biochemical events to stabilize blood vessels and prevent uncontrolled growth. In the "wet" form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), new blood vessels grow into a part of the retina (the light sensitive back of the eye) called the macula, which is necessary for central vision. These new blood vessels are often unstable and leak, affecting vision. In the Nature Medicine article, researchers reported that damage from AMD could be prevented or even reversed when the Robo4 protein was activated in mice models that simulated the disease, inhibiting abnormal blood vessel growth and stabilizing blood vessels to prevent leakage. Since this research used the same animal models required for drug development, it could potentially reduce the amount of time required to test the approach in people and develop treatments for AMD, as well as diabetic retinopathy.

The National Eye Institute (NEI) and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the research, which NEI has described as "a prime example of basic science research yielding a discovery with direct clinical applications."

AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans, with almost 10 million individuals age 40+ currently experiencing intermediate-to-advanced stages of the disease. Currently, 200,000 Americans each year develop advanced AMD, and this number is expected to double by year 2020. Since AMD affects central vision, it severely affects a personís ability to read and drive, which has an enormous impact on productivity, independence, and quality of life. With the aging of the population, AMD reflects a significant portion of the $68 billion annual cost to the United States of vision impairment and eye disease.

Kang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., serves as Professor of Ophthalmology and Human Genetics at Shiley Eye Center/UCSD. An NIH-funded investigator, he focuses on novel disease gene targets and therapies in macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and inherited retinal degenerations.

In H. Res. 366 and S. Res. 209 passed earlier this year, Congress designated 2010-2020 as the decade of vision and acknowledged AEVRís efforts to provide sustained education about the impact of eye disease and vision impairment through its Decade of Vision 2010-2020 Initiative.

Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) is a 501(c)3 non-profit foundation dedicated to education about the importance of federal funding for eye and vision research. Visit its Web site at www.eyeresearch.org

Congressional Vision Caucus (CVC) is a bipartisan coalition of Congressional Members dedicated to strengthening and stimulating a national dialogue and policy on vision-related problems and disabilities. Visit its Web site at www.house.gov/green/cvc

AMD Alliance International (AMDAI) is a non-profit coalition of the world's leading vision, research, and seniors organizations working together to raise awareness of AMD, of treatment and rehabilitation options, and of the importance of early detection. Visit its Web site at www.amdalliance.com

Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) is the largest eye and vision research organization in the world. Members include more than 12,500 eye and vision researchers from 70 countries. Visit its Web site at www.arvo.org

Lighthouse International, founded in 1905, is a leading non-profit organization dedicated to preserving vision and to providing critically needed health care services to help people of all ages overcome the challenges of vision loss. Visit its Web site at www.lighthouse.org

Prevent Blindness America (PBA), founded in 1908, is the nationís leading volunteer eye health and safety organization dedicated to fighting blindness and saving sight. Focused on providing a continuum of vision care, PBA touches the lives of millions of people each year. Visit its Web site at www.preventblindness.org