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Downs Receives BrightFocus Foundation Glaucoma Research Grant

The BrightFocus Foundation has awarded a glaucoma research grant for more than $149,000 to J. Crawford Downs, PhD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, for his work on a new wireless system to measure and control fluid pressure around the optic nerve.

The pressure inside the eye, or intraocular pressure (IOP), has long been thought to play a dominant role in glaucoma, but recent work suggests that pressure from cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the optic nerve exiting the eye is also involved. The pressures are not easy to measure, but Downs and his fellow researchers have developed a new system to wirelessly measure and record the IOP continuously in research subjects, and now want to extend that system to measure the pressure around the nerve exiting the eye. Using this system, Downs hopes he can definitively determine whether the pressure around the optic nerve is important in glaucoma, which could lead to new treatment approaches for the blinding disease.

BrightFocus, a nonprofit based in Maryland, awarded a total of 62 new grants in 2016. These awards are given for research to end Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, and glaucoma. The grants were approved after peer review by panels of the leading scientists in each field. BrightFocus manages a portfolio of more than 150 research projects around the globe.

Jim Johnston, MD, a pediatric neurosurgeon at UAB and Children’s of Alabama, and Brian Samuels, MD, PhD, ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist at UAB, will be working with Downs on the project.