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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 7, 2006

PHOTOS (from top): Comparison between normal vision and the same scene as it might be viewed by someone with age-related macular degeneration (images courtesy of the National Eye Institute, NIH; Gregory Hageman, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

Hageman Receives Foundation Fighting Blindness Major Achievement Award

Gregory Hageman, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, has been awarded the annual Foundation Fighting Blindness (FFB) award for the most significant achievement in the past year among all scientists who received FFB funding.

Hageman and two investigators at other institutions were honored at the FFB annual trustee midwinter meeting Feb. 3 in Los Angeles for their roles in 2005 in determining that variations, called polymorphisms, in the factor H gene account for 50 percent of the genetic risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The eye disease is the most frequent cause of irreversible blindness in developed countries. In the United Sates, one-third of people age 70 and older show signs of AMD.

"This award from one of the world's most important foundations supporting medical research on blindness is a richly deserved honor for Dr. Hageman," said Jean E. Robillard, M.D., dean of the UI Carver College of Medicine. "Greg's groundbreaking work may prove to be one of the most important discoveries into the underlying causes of age-related macular degeneration. It is the type of discovery that can have a significant impact on diagnosing and treating this disease."

The two other honorees were Albert Edwards, M.D., Ph.D., scientist at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, and Rando Allikmets, Ph.D., the Acquavella Associate Professor in Ophthalmology and Pathology and Cell Biology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. The three researchers each received a plaque and an award of $8,333.

Hageman led an international research team in 2005 that was one of four independent teams to discover that inherited variations in the Factor H gene increase the likelihood of an older person developing AMD. The UI- and Columbia-led study, which included Allikmets, 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.

No treatment currently exists for the early stages of the AMD, which affects up to 50 million people worldwide. Treatment for advanced stages is limited. 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.

The Foundation Fighting Blindness is dedicated to supporting research for treatments and cures for retinal degenerative diseases. The annual FFB award recognizes the hard work and time researchers devote to making that goal a reality. Since its inception in 1971, the foundation has raised more than $240 million to fund leading-edge research in promising areas such as genetics, gene therapy, retinal cell transplantation, artificial retinal implants, and pharmaceutical and nutritional therapies. Visit the foundation online at

This UI news release provides additional information about the Factor H gene 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,



For a 300 dpi version, send an email request to

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