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Medical College Receives $2.7 Grant To Study Function of Cone Pigment Genes

The Medical College of Wisconsin has received a five-year, $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the biological processes of photopigment genes in the cone photoreceptor cells of the eye. Light absorption by the cone photopigments is the first step in vision. The award is from the NIH’s National Eye Institute.

Jay Neitz, Ph.D., the R.D. & Linda Peters Professor in Ophthalmology, and professor of cell biology, neurobiology and anatomy, is principal investigator for the grant.

“Our laboratory is interested in the relationships between genes and biological processes underling vision,” said Dr. Neitz. "Harmful mutations occur at a higher frequency in the photopigment genes than at any other location in the human genome."

Dr. Neitz will investigate the contribution of these mutation to common vision disorders such as age related macular degeneration and nearsightedness.

With his wife, Maureen Neitz, Ph.D., Dr. Jay Neitz has worked out the molecular mechanism by which amino acid changes tune the absorption spectrum of the photopigment molecule. Drs. Jay and Maureen Neitz share the ALCON award, considered to be the most prestigious award for ophthalmology research. Dr. Maureen Neitz is the Richard O. Schultz/Ruth Works Professor in Ophthalmology Research.

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