Research initiatives AFI supports Aniridia Foundation International Research Initiatives

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However, all surgeries have possible side effects, including the formation of scars. Scarring in the eye can be particularly damaging to vision. Unfortunately, aniridia patients are particularly prone to severe post-surgical scarring after eye surgeries (aniridia fibrosis syndrome (AFS)) one, which is so severe that it can itself cause blindness. Currently, this is treated by surgically removing the scar tissue, but more surgery may also contribute to severe complications and more scarring. We propose that AFS arises in aniridia patients because Pax6 is important for eye cells to remember that they are eye cells over the lifespan, and that when Pax6 levels are decreased (as in aniridia), cells that should be eye cells instead convert to the cells that make scar tissue. We have some preliminary evidence that this occurs in AFS.  

Notably, we also have evidence suggesting what Pax6 does to prevent the formation of scar tissue in normal eyes (blocks Wnt and TGFbeta signals which drive scar tissue formation), and have shown that this does not occur in aniridic eyes. Further, we have mice which also develop aniridia due to loss of a copy of the Pax6 gene and have shown that they are also very prone to post-surgical scarring. We propose to first prove the connection between aniridia and increased scar tissue formation in these mice. Next, we propose to follow up on our prior work that suggests that Pax6 prevents uncontrolled scarring in normal eyes by shutting off two important mechanisms driving scar tissue formation, transforming growth factor beta and Wnt signaling. If we can prove this connection, we will then use the animal model to test possible ways to prevent and/or treat AFS using known drugs that turn down scar tissue by blocking the function of the identified causes. The overall goal of this work is to determine how AFS occurs then to use this knowledge to identify drugs (initially ones under development or in the clinic to block other types of scarring) to prevent and/or treat AFS, helping aniridia patients maintain their vision throughout their lives.
Learn how to participate in the AFI Medical Registry which assists the medical and research community.

Aniridia Foundation International’s (AFI) Medical Registry is an important aspect of vision research. Because aniridia syndrome is made up of multiple eye and medical issues, this data collected for research will help those with aniridia AND potentially those that experience the common ophthalmic and medical conditions found in aniridia syndrome such as: glaucoma, cataracts, corneal scarring, ophthalmic fibrosis issues, diabetes / glucose intolerance, obesity and autism spectrum disorders.

The adults, children or families with multiple aniridic family members that participate in our research data collection are dedicated to being part of the “solution” and working towards better treatments, advancing research knowledge and eventually a cure for themselves and the children of today and tomorrow. If you would like to participate, please contact our office. There are multiple ways to participate and you can do as much or as little as you wish.

Contact us. Please provide your name, phone and the person(s) with aniridia so that we may contact you with how you can Help Us Make a Miracle!

You do not have to be a member of AFI to participate, however, AFI membership does provide many benefits to you and your family. Become active in AFI and register as a member. It’s FREE.
Melinda K. Duncan, Ph.D.
AFI Scientific Board Member 
Professor, Graduate Program Director
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Delaware
AFI Research Initiatives
Aniridia Foundation International's Medical and Scientific Boards collaborate with researchers worldwide to assist and conduct life changing research. Our research program, The AFI Medical Registry, is one of the most important components of these collaborations because it houses crucial data that allow researchers to study a large population. This data was not available just a decade ago when Aniridia Foundation International was first founded.  

Aniridia syndrome is just one of many congenital eye disorders usually found at birth. Since it is a "syndrome" it is defined by multiple ophthalmic and medical conditions, of which some conditions are often found commonly in the general population. For this reason, research is important because what we learn about glaucoma for example, will assist with research and education advancement for all people with glaucoma, not only those with aniridia.

We appreciate the work of these partnering researchers who work to better the lives of those with aniridia syndrome and investigate the conditions which make up this genetic congenital eye disorder.
Please help AFI support these important research initiatives. Donate to AFI and indicate “Research” on your check (made payable to Aniridia Foundation International.) Or use our AFI online donation form.
Aniridia Fibrosis Syndrome (AFS) Research
Melinda K. Duncan, Ph.D.

Congenital aniridia is a condition diagnosed when a baby is found to lack the iris (which controls the amount of light coming into the eye) at birth. In most cases, these babies have a damaged or absent copy of the Pax6 gene, so that these babies make less Pax6 than normal. The right amount of Pax6 is necessary to tell the appropriate cells of the embryo to make an iris, and too little Pax6 means that not enough of this instruction is being made. However, the correct amount of Pax6 is also important to make other structures of the eye, and to keep them healthy once they are made. Thus, as aniridia patients age, they will be affected with other eye diseases, such as glaucoma, cataract, and corneal cloudiness (scarring), which require surgical treatment if the person is going to be able to retain their vision. 
Aniridia Fibrosis Syndrome: An Infrequent But Potentially Very Serious Problem in Congenital Aniridia
Christopher Riemann, MD and Melinda Duncan, PhD

Aniridia Foundation International is proud to share this research article (Click Here) on Aniridia Fibrosis Syndrome. Aniridia Foundation funded this important research and It is written by our Scientific and Medical Board advisors Christopher Riemann, MD and Melinda Duncan, PhD. Funding research is expensive and this is why it is important for the aniridia community to help us with these financial efforts. Other articles like this will be shared with our members in our private members area. (opening soon).
Christopher D. Riemann, MD
AFI Medical Board Member
Retinal Surgeon
Cincinnati Eye Institute
James D. Lauderdale, PhD
Chair, AFI Scientific Board
Assistant Professor in Cellular Biology
Department of Genetics
University of Georgia - Athens
Structural Brain Abnormalities in 12 Persons with Aniridia
​James Lauderdale, Ph.D.

Although aniridia is most well known for its ocular phenotypes, the condition has a number of other abnormalities, including sensory, neural, cognitive, and auditory processing abnormalities. The following research article by the Chair of our Scientific Board, James Lauderdale, PhD, investigates structural brain abnormalities. (Click Here.)