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[May 11,2010]

Professor Eberhart Zrenner, Noted for Groundbreaking Research in Restoring
Vision to the Blind, Visits SUNY Downstate
 

Noted scientist Eberhart Zrenner, MD, will spend a three-day Visiting Professorship at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Zrenner will engage in a series of lectures and roundtable discussions with SUNY Downstate researchers and administrators during his visit, and will host a public lecture titled, “Restoring Vision to the Blind with Subretinal Implants,” on Wednesday, May 12 at 4:00 p.m. Retina Implant, AG, a leading developer of subretinal implants for the visually impaired, and SUNY Downstate announced the visit.

This Visiting Professorship in Ophthalmology is made possible by an award from Pfizer, Inc., which promotes visiting professorships at universities and research institutes across the United States, enabling expert discussions with international top-level scientists. Professor Zrenner is director and chairman of the Institute for Ophthalmic Research, Center for Ophthalmology University of Tübingen, Germany and co-founder of Retina Implant, AG.

Dr. Zrenner’s May 12 presentation will examine how retinal implants work to restore useful vision in patients blind from retinitis pigmentosa as well as the findings from Retina Implant’s first human clinical trial. During the course of this trial, 11 patients were implanted subretinally with Retina Implant’s microchip. Patients who were previously blind due to the degenerative condition retinitis pigmentosa (RP) were able to identify objects and put letters together to form words. Professor Zrenner will also discuss new research on subretinal implants recently presented at the 2010 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.   

“It is an honor to have Dr. Eberhart Zrenner present such innovative and important research on our campus,” said William J. Brunken, Ph.D., professor of cell biology and director of ophthalmic research at SUNY Downstate. “With nearly 300,000 people across the western world suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, with no known cure, this research will hopefully unlock the key to helping many people regain their lost sight.”

Douglas R. Lazzaro, M.D., professor and chair of ophthalmology, added, “SUNY is a leader in research into the treatment of diseases of the eye. I am delighted that researchers on our campus will have the opportunity to discuss issues of mutual interest with Professor Zrenner.” 

On May 13, Dr. Zrenner will deliver a public Grand Rounds lecture on “Retinal Prosthesis,” at 4:00 p.m. In addition to meeting with groups of researchers and administrators at SUNY Downstate, Dr. Zrenner will tour Downstate’s Advanced Biotechnology Incubator on the campus and its biotech facility at the Brooklyn Army Terminal, BioBAT.  

About Retina Implant, AG
Retina Implant, AG is the leading developer of subretinal implants for partially sighted and blind patients. After extensive research with German university hospitals that began in 1996, Retina Implant, AG, was founded by Dr. Eberhart Zrenner and his colleagues in 2003 with the goal of developing the first fully-functioning electronic retinal prosthesis to restore vision to the blind. Retina Implant began implanting in human patients in 2005 and has implanted 11 patients to date, with plans to begin a second clinical trial in the coming year.

About SUNY Downstate Medical Center
William J. Brunken, PhD, is professor of cell biology and of ophthalmology and director of ophthalmic research at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. Dr. Brunken's laboratory is focused on the role of the extracellular matrix in ocular development and disease. Projects in his laboratory include synapse formation in the outer retina; neuron-glial interaction; regulation of cell cycle in retinal stem cells; and vascular development. A recent paper from Dr. Brunken's group supports the hypothesis that matrix molecules provide critical cues for retinal development and mutations underlie human congenital disease.

Douglas R. Lazzaro, MD, is professor and Troutman Distinguished Chair of Ophthalmology. Dr. Lazzaro's clinical research interests are broadly based, ranging from changes in retinal blood flow that accompany sleep apnea and may presage glaucomatous changes to treatment and diagnosis of corneal disease. His newly emerging laboratory work is focused on the matrix regulation of corneal development work.

SUNY Downstate is a member of the SUNY Eye Institute, a consortium of the vision researchers from all four academic medical centers in the SUNY system (Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, Stony Brook, and Buffalo) and the SUNY College of Optometry. This group of investigators represents more than 45 laboratories making strides against blinding diseases. The Eye Institute is part of a larger research collaboration called SUNY REACH. 

SUNY Downstate Medical Center, founded in 1860, was the first medical school in the United States to bring teaching out of the lecture hall and to the patient’s bedside. A center of innovation and excellence in research and clinical service delivery, SUNY Downstate Medical Center comprises a College of Medicine, Colleges of Nursing and Health Related Professions, a School of Graduate Studies, a School of Public Health, University Hospital of Brooklyn, and several biotechnology initiatives.

Downstate's biotechnology initiatives include Downstate’s Biotechnology Park, which encompasses an Advanced Biotechnology Incubator for start-ups and early-stage biotech companies and a state-of-the-art commercial synthetic chemistry facility. Companies leasing space at these locations have convenient access to Downstate's facilities and amenities. In addition, Downstate is working with New York City and New York State to develop biotech-related space at the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BioBAT) for expansion and manufacturing.

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