UMKC Vision Research Center Awarded National Institute on Aging Grant

Will support development of therapies to treat,

prevent degeneration of nerve cells

December 18, 2012
      Contact: John Martellaro
 (816) 235-1592,

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded the UMKC School of Medicine Vision Research Center (VRC) a five-year, $1.335 million grant to support the development of new drug therapies for protecting nerve cells from degeneration caused by chronic diseases.

Peter Koulen, Ph.D., professor and Felix and Carmen Sabates Missouri Endowed Chair in Vision Research at the School of Medicine and director of Basic Research at the VRC, is the lead investigator. The project is a collaboration of researchers at UMKC, the University of North Texas Health Science Center and West Virginia University, using interdisciplinary and interprofessional research strategies developed by the NIH.

The ultimate goal will be to develop novel therapies to specifically target the prevention and treatment of disorders affecting nerve cells. Dr. Koulen said that an essential element of developing these urgently needed new therapies is to understand how nerve cells respond to environmental and physiological stimuli and subsequently interact within other cells. 

“My team will specifically determine how our basic research findings regarding the interaction of hormone and calcium signaling in nerve cells can become the mechanistic foundation of novel therapies protecting nerve cells from damage,” Dr. Koulen said.

“This grant further advances the cutting-edge research of the Vision Research Center, bringing our intention to establish better treatments for retinal eye disease closer to fruition,” said Nelson Sabates, M.D., professor and chairman of the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology and founder and director of the VRC. “We are proud to have the ongoing partnership of the esteemed NIH in our efforts.”

About the Vision Research Center

Under the direction of Nelson R. Sabates, M.D., professor and chairman of the UMKC Department of Ophthalmology, the VRC at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine Department of Ophthalmology targets one goal with its interdisciplinary synergy: to better diagnose, prevent, and treat eye diseases and to make a difference in the lives of people afflicted with eye disease through basic, translational and clinical research and comprehensive patient care. The Center’s nationally recognized excellence in research, patient care and medical education contribute to Kansas City’s strengths in the life sciences. In addition to support from the National Institutes of Health and other national and international agencies, VRC’s research program receives strong philanthropic support from the Greater Kansas City community and its friends and supporters worldwide through the Vision Research Foundation of Kansas City. For more information about the Foundation’s mission and how to contribute, please contact Bridgette O’Connor at 816-808-4508 or visit

About the UMKC School of Medicine

The UMKC School of Medicine was founded in 1971 as an innovative, combined degree program. From its baccalaureate/MD curriculum to a docent system that emphasizes small group learning, the School has remained a trendsetter in medical education and research. For more information about the UMKC School of Medicine, visit You can also find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

About the University of Missouri-Kansas City

The University of Missouri-Kansas City, one of four University of Missouri campuses, is a public university serving more than 15,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. UMKC engages with the community and economy based on a four-part mission: life and health sciences; visual and performing arts; urban issues and education; and a vibrant learning and campus life experience. For more information about UMKC, visit You can also find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and watch us on YouTube.

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This information is available to people with speech or hearing impairments by calling Relay Missouri at (800) 735-2966 (TT) or (800) 735-2466 (voice).


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