Researchers at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC are looking at potential preventative and therapeutic measures for the disease, optic nerve hypoplasia (ONH), which causes vision impairment in newborns.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the disorder happens when the optic nerves that carry information from the retina to the brain are undeveloped at birth, resulting in youngsters losing moderate to severe vision (NIH). There is no known cause, and the disorder’s affected families have few medical treatment options.
Scientists at Virginia Tech, led by main investigator Konark Mukherjee, will investigate whether a prenatal lack of an essential fatty acid known as arachidonic acid contributes to the illness using funding from a four-year, $1.56 million grant from the National Eye Institute of the NIH.
If so, the finding might explain why prenatal exposure to substances like smoking, alcohol, recreational drugs, anti-depressants, anticonvulsants, and other medications as well as early maternal age have been linked to ONH in infants.
Mukherjee will continue to investigate if arachidonic acid supplementation may treat or prevent ONH in two different mice models of the condition.
Mukherjee’s research aims to better understand neurodevelopment and offer fresh perspectives on childhood disorders. “At the moment, there are no effective medical treatments, but if we are correct, the intervention may be a simple nutritional supplementation for the population at risk,” she added.
After a week-long search, a missing radioactive capsule was discovered in Western Australia on a roadside.
According to the NIH, otic nerve hypoplasia accounts for 15 to 25 percent of newborns with severe visual loss; although exact figures are not known, the disease’s prevalence appears to be increasing.