4 VA at JMU Moving Forward 2014 : page5

Finding a Cur e for Dry Eye photo by AlantheBox Principle Investigator: Dr. Bob McKown D Cloning this gene is the first step towards development of a treatment for dry eye in humans. RY EYE is a fairly common condi-tion, affecting roughly 35 million Americans. Those who have it typ-ically produce tears of inadequate qual-ity or quantity. Dry air, wind, allergies, medications, disease, aging, wearing contact lenses and spending long hours in front of a computer are just some of the potential causes of the uncom-fortable sensations and blurred vision brought on by the condition. Artificial tears are commonly used as a temporary solution for dry eye, but what if there was a treatment that could stimulate new tear production? With funding from both a 4-VA Mini Grant and a Scale-Up Grant, Dr. Bob Mc-Kown is working to find just that—a treatment for dry eye in dogs that could potentially develop into a new topical therapeutic for the treatment of dry eye in humans. A professor of Integrated Science and Technology at JMU, Dr. Mc-Kown is collaborating with Dr. Ian P. Her-ring from the VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech. Medicine at Virginia Tech and tested for stimulation of tear production in ca-nines. If successful, this research could directly result in a treatment for canine dry eye, which would have an important impact on dry eye syndrome in humans as well. “The safe and effective use of lacritin for treatment of dry eye in an animal mod-el system would help advance devel-opment of this potential new drug into human clinical trials,” said Dr. McKown. The two grants awarded to Dr. McKown have also provided the means to hire two student researchers to focus solely on the project. Cara Soyars and Alan Tate assisted with dog tear analysis in Dr. Mc-Kown’s lab at JMU during the summer of 2013. Cloning this gene is the first step towards development of a treatment for dry eye in humans, an accomplish-ment that will improve the lives of many and demon-strate the power of col-laboration in funding A human tear protein called lacritin and and research. the canine version of lacritin are at the center of Dr. McKown’s research. The goal of his Scale-Up Grant is to clone the ca-nine gene for lacritin, produce the canine lacritin protein in bacteria, and purify it for animal studies. The purified protein will be sent to the College of Veterinary

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