Focused on Eye Disease

Six undergraduate students spent the summer working with faculty in Oakland University’s Eye Research Institute (ERI) on projects that investigated causes and potential cures for eye diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts and retinopathy.

The students took part in OU’s Summer Undergraduate Program in Eye Research (SUPER), helping to conduct experiments that could one day lead to breakthroughs in treatments for vision loss.

Using state-of-the-art scientific methodologies and equipment, each student worked with ERI faculty mentors on research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, including:

• Monitoring the growth of cells found in vessels of the retina. Abnormal growth of these cells is associated with various retinal diseases.

• Examining the interaction between alpha crystallin protein and an alpha crystallin peptide using fluorescence polarization to find out whether the peptide was binding to the protein, increasing the risk of cataracts.

• Researching the development of cortical cataracts.

• Examining the role of the Rtca enzyme in causing glaucoma in mice.

The students worked in the lab approximately 30 hours per week for 12 weeks, learning research fundamentals, including keeping a research notebook, evaluating research literature and following laboratory protocols. Acceptance into the SUPER program is selective, according to ERI Director Frank Giblin.

“We look for high-achieving students in science and math, especially organic chemistry and calculus,” says Dr. Giblin. “Most of our students have an interest in medical school or graduate school. About 75 to 80 percent go on to pursue graduate education.”