The National Institutes of Health’s National Eye Institute has awarded a nearly $2 million grant to Indiana University. The five-year award will go toward research aimed at preventing blindness caused by genetic disorders and aging.
Andrew Zelhof, associate professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, is leading the study, which will use insects to study the effects of congenital birth defects and age on the eye. The research will go to the cellular and molecular level using a specific species of fruit fly.
"The basic genetic insights from these experiments will address issues common to all photoreceptors across taxa, from flies to humans," said Zelhof. "Understanding the functional blueprints for designing ways to see — and the genes required for these designs — will have a direct impact on our basic knowledge regarding the comparative biology of visual systems."
IU cites the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says congenital eye defects affect about 1 in 5,300 infants born in the United States. More than 28 million Americans are also affected by age-related eye disease or vision impairment, according to the CDC.
The NIH grant will support Zelhof’s research through July 2021.