SOAR resident receives grant from Knights Templar Eye Foundation to support retina research
Luciano Custo Greig, MD, PhD, a current trainee in the Stanford Ophthalmology Advanced Research (SOAR) Residency Program, is the recipient of a Career Starter Grant from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation for his research on regeneration of retinal ganglion cells from endogenous progenitors.
This grant will provide funding for 2019-2020, and will allow Greig to explore innovative regenerative approaches that could lead to treatments for patients with glaucoma and other eye disorders affecting retinal ganglion cells. The project will focus on reprogramming Müller glia, a type of cell in the retina that provides structural and functional support for neurons, into retinal ganglion cells, which are the output neurons that transmit visual information from the eye to the brain.
“I am very excited to continue to work on this project and I am grateful to the Knights Templar Eye Foundation for funding this important research,” Greig said. “Their investment in early career grants is critical to recruiting and supporting the next generation of vision scientists.
Greig attended Harvard Medical School, graduated with a PhD in genetics in 2015, and earned his MD, magna cum laude, in 2017. As the current SOAR resident, Greig has spent this past year gaining expertise in retinal genetics, establishing a research program, and forging collaborations that will help lay the foundation for a successful independent research career. He is working with Sui Wang, PhD, assistant professor of ophthalmology, and Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, PhD, professor and chair of ophthalmology, to develop new strategies for replacement of retinal ganglion cells. In the future, these strategies could be developed into treatments for a number of adult and pediatric eye disorders, including glaucoma, hereditary optic neuropathies, developmental syndromes associated with optic nerve hypoplasia and traumatic optic nerve injuries.
“Once retinal ganglion cells die as a result of glaucoma or injury in humans, the eye is unable to replace them, leading to irreversible loss of vision,” Greig said. “However, other animals, such as zebrafish, have dormant stem cells known as Müller glia that can produce new neurons in response to injury and rebuild visual circuits. Although Müller glia are also present in humans, their response to injury is ineffective and fails to generate replacement neurons. We and others in the field are trying to genetically manipulate human Müller glia into behaving more like their counterparts in zebrafish, with the long-term goal of restoring vision after neurons are lost as result of disease or injury.”
The Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc., incorporated in 1956, is a charity sponsored by the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar. The Foundation is governed by a Board of Trustees comprised of the six elected officers of the Grand Encampment, all Past Grand Masters of the Grand Encampment, and six trustees-at-large elected from and by the membership for a term of nine years. Since its inception, the Foundation has expended over $148 million on research, patient care, and education. Research grants totaling in excess of $24 million have been awarded to researchers working in the fields of pediatric ophthalmology and ophthalmic genetics. The goal of the Career Starter Grants is to support research that can help launch the careers of clinical or basic researchers committed to the understanding, prevention, and cure of vision threatening diseases in infants and children.
“I am very excited to continue to work on this project and I am grateful to the Knights Templar Eye Foundation for funding this important research,” Greig said. “Their investment in early career grants is critical to recruiting and supporting the next generation of vision scientists.”