SOM researcher receives $1.335 million grant to explore therapies to protect, treat damaged nerve cells

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The National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the UMKC School of Medicine Vision Research Center (VRC) a five-year, $1.335 million grant to support the development of new drug therapies for protecting nerve cells from degeneration caused by chronic diseases.

Peter Koulen, Ph.D., professor and Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research at the School of Medicine and director of Basic Research at the VRC, is the lead investigator. The project is a collaboration of researchers at UMKC, the University of North Texas Health Science Center and West Virginia University, using interdisciplinary and interprofessional research strategies developed by the NIH.

The ultimate goal will be to develop novel therapies to specifically target the prevention and treatment of disorders affecting nerve cells. Dr. Koulen said that an essential element of developing these urgently needed new therapies is to understand how nerve cells respond to environmental and physiological stimuli and subsequently interact within other cells.

“My team will specifically determine how our basic research findings regarding the interaction of hormone and calcium signaling in nerve cells can become the mechanistic foundation of novel therapies protecting nerve cells from damage,” Dr. Koulen said.

“This grant further advances the cutting-edge research of the Vision Research Center, bringing our intention to establish better treatments for retinal eye disease closer to fruition,” said Nelson Sabates, M.D., professor and chairman of the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology and founder and director of the VRC. “We are proud to have the ongoing partnership of the esteemed NIH in our efforts.”

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