Nov 14, 2018

Could Vitamin D Impact the Development of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?


Clinician-Scientist Emerging Leader Award: Dr. Jacob Rullo

Dr. Jacob Rullo is studying the connection between vitamin D inside the eye and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the aging population. Although vitamin D is involved with many diseases, it has not been extensively studied in the eye. This is remarkable considering the eye’s unique position given its exposure to light on a daily basis. The eye is designed to focus light on the retina. As a result, the retina is exposed to damaging UV light, and potentially vitamin D, daily. How does our eye deal with this damage? How is it related to the progression of AMD? These are the questions that motivate Dr. Rullo.

Dr. Rullo’s work will examine if vitamin D levels in the eye are lower in patients with AMD and study how AMD affects the levels of vitamin D. Considering the burden AMD has on the aging population, determining the role vitamin D plays could have enormous treatment potential.

At FBC, we are thrilled to announce that Dr. Rullo will be conducting this research with funding provided by Fighting Blindness Canada’s (FBC’s) Clinician-Scientist Emerging Leader (CSEL) Program. This innovative funding program was designed to strengthen the community of ophthalmologist-clinician-scientists, who are ready to help accelerate the development of new sight-saving treatments.

“The field of ophthalmology has many unexplored areas that could have a tremendous impact on our patients’ health,” says Dr. Rullo. “Clinician-scientists are uniquely positioned to make interesting observations from our patients and generate important research questions that have the potential to directly impact patients.”

By the year 2040, the number of people with AMD is expected to double. Despite the development of ground-breaking treatments for the “wet” type of AMD, we still do not know exactly what causes the disease or how to prevent its progression. This is why FBC is proud to be funding AMD research and supporting the next generation of clinician-scientists who will play a vital role translating new research discoveries into sight-saving treatments for Canadians.

Thank you to BMO for providing the seed funding that enabled FBC to launch the Clinician-Scientist Emerging Leader Award in 2016. Thanks to continued support from BMO and new support from Bayer, we have been able to expand the award in 2018.

Dr. Rullo will be joined by his CSEL awardee colleagues: Dr. Brian Ballios (the 2017 CSEL recipient) and Dr. Matthew Benson (2018 recipient). At FBC, we know that we can’t develop new sight-saving treatments and cures without the incredible expertise of these clinician-scientists. We are so thankful that we are all in this fight against blindness together!


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