WRITER: MELANIE LAVERMAN
CONTACT: STEVE MARAVETZ
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-8037; fax (319) 335-8034
Regents approve UI Center for Macular Degeneration
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The State Board of Regents approved the establishment
of the University of Iowa Center for Macular Degeneration at its monthly
meeting Wednesday, July 23.
The center has been established for the study of age-related macular
degeneration, the most common cause of legal blindness in the developed
world today. It affects approximately 10 percent of people over the age
The center is the first of its kind in the United States. While its
main objectives are to determine the cause of macular degeneration and
find a cure, it will also play an important role in patient care.
Currently, treatment options for people with macular degeneration are
limited. Laser surgery can be used for only a small percentage of those
affected. Even then, it can only stabilize vision, not restore it. Patients
also need counseling and rehabilitation to help them deal with impaired
vision, but private-practice doctors often do not have the time or resources
to deliver those services.
Dr. Edwin M. Stone, professor of ophthalmology and scientific director
of the center, says the center will address those problems.
"The mission of the center can be divided into three parts,"
he says. "To learn how to prevent the disease, to develop more effective
treatments for patients who are already affected and to deliver state-of-the-art
care in a timely and cost-efficient manner."
The UI has already established itself as a leader in macular degeneration
research. For the past 20 years, UI faculty members have participated in
the development of laser treatment and the study of macular degeneration
at the cellular and molecular levels. Investigators at the UI have identified
genes that cause three different types of hereditary macular degeneration
and have discovered more than 100 specific mutations that cause macular
The center will be a self-supporting program within the UI College of
Medicine and will not require institutional funds for its creation. Current
funding sources include more than $1 million per year from federal and
private grants and a $3 million Carver Endowment for Molecular Ophthalmology,
established in September 1996.
The faculty and research staff who will initially participate in the
center are supported by research grants, clinical revenue, endowed funds
and departmental salary budgets. Dr. Thomas A. Weingeist, professor and
head of ophthalmology, has been named executive director of the center.
Unit directors include Dr. Stephen Russell, associate professor of ophthalmology;
Dr. H. Culver Boldt, associate professor of ophthalmology; Dr. Karen Gehrs,
assistant professor of ophthalmology; Dr. Thomas A. Porter, an associate
in ophthalmology; Dr. Gregory Hageman, professor of ophthalmology; and
Dr. Beverly Davidson, assistant professor of internal medicine.