UTHSC Professor Awarded Grants to Explore Retinal Degeneration

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Monica M. Jablonski, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology at the UTHSC Hamilton Eye Institute, has been awarded a three-year $428,800 National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to research retinal degeneration.

Monica M. Jablonski, PhD, associate professor of ophthalmology at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) Hamilton Eye Institute, has been awarded a three-year $428,800 National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Eye Institute (NEI) grant to research retinal degeneration. She has also received a second, $100,000 grant from the International Retinal Research Foundation to identify a specific protein within the retina and its role in retinal degeneration.

Her mission is to identify proteins that are critical to maintaining the cell structure of the retina. “When the retinal cell structure deteriorates, eyesight is compromised, and left untreated, one would become blind,” explained Dr. Jablonski. “By first identifying the retinal proteins and determining the basic elements required for a healthy retinal cell structure, we can then target the ‘unhealthy’ proteins for drug therapy.”

She also noted that scientists have studied the causes for blindness for the last twenty to thirty years but now are able to return to trying to understand the basic retinal structure thanks to a relatively new methodology which minimizes experimental error.

Dr. Jablonski received her doctorate in physiology from the Medical College of Wisconsin and a post-doctoral research fellowship in retinal cell biology from the Cullen Eye Institute at the Baylor College of Medicine. Prior to joining the UTHSC faculty, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston.