One of the Foundation Fighting Blindness’ goals is to develop therapy for Stargardt disease. MSU hopes to be at the forefront of translational therapy development to cure this form of blindness.
Dr. Simon Petersen-Jones, Donald R. Meyers and William E. Dunlap Endowed Chair in Canine Health and professor for the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Michigan State College of Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Andras Komáromy, professor for the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the Michigan State College of Veterinary Medicine, have been awarded $500,000 from the Foundation Fighting Blindness for their three-year project “Characterization of a non-rodent large animal Stargardt disease model suitability for translational therapy trials.”
Stargardt disease is an inherited cause of blindness in people, which is caused by mutations in the ABCA4 gene. Therapies for Stargardt disease are desperately needed, but no animals with ABCA4 gene mutations are known to develop the equivalent of the disease for researchers to study—until now.
Recently, a team led by Dr. Tomas Bergström, Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala, Sweden, identified dogs with ABCA4 mutations that do develop disease similar to Stargardt. With this new grant, scientists will study this canine retinal degeneration in detail.
“My collaborators and I will expand and study a colony of dogs affected by this gene mutation and subsequent disease. Through detailed analysis, we’ll compare the dogs’ disease to Stargardt disease in people to determine if these dogs can serve as a model needed to test therapies that may benefit both dogs and people in the future,” says Petersen-Jones.
In addition to working with the Sweden-based team, studies also will be in collaboration with an expert in features of the human condition from Columbia University, Dr. Janet Sparrow.