John Fingert, MD, PhD, was given a $40,000 Mid-Career Physician Scientist Award by the American Glaucoma Society.
The AGS Mid-Career Physician Scientist Awards are targeted towards individuals between 5 to 20 years after fellowship and are designed to assist individuals starting new avenues of research.
Dr. Fingert will use the support to generate and study a transgenic mouse model of glaucoma. Fingert states: "We are engineering these mice to have the same genetic defect that causes glaucoma in some of our patients. We hope to use the mice to better understand the causes of this type of glaucoma and to develop new treatments that are tailored to its specific cause."
Glaucoma is an important cause of vision disability that affects millions of Americans and is caused at least in part by the action of genes. Dr. Fingert's central professional goal is to prevent vision loss caused by glaucoma by identifying these genes and characterizing their role in the development of disease. His laboratory uses several approaches to study the genetics of glaucoma including:
- Family-based research (studies of families with many members that have glaucoma);
- Population-based research (studies of groups of unrelated glaucoma patients);
- Quantitative traits of glaucoma research (studies of the genetic basis of variation in traits like eye pressure that play a role in glaucoma);
- Pharmacogenomics (studies of the heredity of responsiveness to glaucoma drugs).
Dr. Fingert's laboratory has recently discovered that duplication of a gene on chromosome 12, TANK binding kinase 1 (TBK1), causes a subset of normal tension glaucoma. This discovery motivates the current major personal and laboratory goal: to characterize the mechanism by which an extra copy ofTBK1 leads to optic nerve damage and vision loss in normal tension glaucoma with studies of transgenic mice. Dr. Fingert says, "It is my hope that this research will provide new insights in glaucoma diagnosis and ultimately lead to a new class of sight saving, pressure-independent therapy."