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University of Iowa News

Sept. 19, 2005

UI's Hageman To Speak At Capitol Hill About Genetic Eye Finding

Gregory Hageman, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, will speak this week at a Capitol Hill luncheon briefing on the recent discovery of a gene that is strongly linked with a person's risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most frequent cause of irreversible blindness in developed countries.

Hageman co-led an international research team that was one of four independent teams that discovered inherited variations in the Factor H gene dramatically increase the likelihood of an older person developing AMD. Hageman will discuss the finding between noon and 1:15 p.m. (EDT) Wednesday, Sept. 21 in Room 902 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

AMD causes central vision loss when drusen -- the common eye lesions that occur in people with AMD -- accumulate and damage the macula, a quarter-inch diameter region of the retina. In the United Sates, one-third of individuals age of 70 and older show signs of AMD.No treatment currently exists for the early stages of the disease, which affects up to 50 million people worldwide. Treatment for advanced stages is limited.

The Factor H gene encodes a protein involved in controlling the body's first-line immune defense against bacterial and other infections. A better understanding of the gene could help scientists more quickly develop diagnostic and therapeutic tools. The research finding was cited by Elias Zerhouni, M.D., director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at a July 19 Congressional hearing as a significant breakthrough.

The UI and Columbia University Medical Center co-led finding appeared online May 3 and in print May 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Three other independent studies on Factor H, which included some of the same results, were published in the March 10 online issue of Science magazine.

The UI- and Columbia-led study was unique in several aspects, including its focus on the basic biological causes of AMD and making an important connection to a rare kidney disease. The study received support from the National Eye Institute of the NIH, Research to Prevent Blindness and other fundraising organizations. This UI news release provides additional information about the research:

The original research study, published in PNAS, is available online at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Science Relations, 5137 Westlawn, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1178

MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-335-6660,

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: This UI news release includes information from the following Sept. 2, 2005, news release issued by the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research:



The following image is not copyrighted; however, please credit the National Eye Institute, NIH. Simulation of macular degeneration:, photo reference EDS05.