Alabama Nonprofit Partners with Huntsville Genetics Company to Cure Blinding Diseases

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — August 2020 — Two Alabama-based organizations are partnering to find cures for common diseases that cause blindness for millions of people worldwide.

In an effort to help medical researchers develop new treatments and cures for blinding eye diseases, Advancing Sight Network and Kailos Genetics created the OcularGeneScreen, a new genetic screening panel, to be used with eye tissue from post-mortem eye donors. The screening will help determine which genes are associated with eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and Fuch’s Dystrophy.

“These diseases cause a huge decline in quality of life for so many people,” says Dr. Gregory Grossman, Advancing Sight Network’s Chief Scientific Officer. “By identifying the genes involved, we’re taking a huge step forward in being able to find cures.”

Advancing Sight Network is a nonprofit organization that has served Alabama for more than 50 years. In addition to providing eye tissue for corneal transplants, the organization invests in medical research in hopes of restoring eyesight to individuals impacted by eye disease. (more…)

Organ Donation Makes Lasting Impact on Young Surgeon

Dr. Pacha is proud of his daughter, Dima McCuiston, who is partner relations manager at Advancing Sight Network, a non-profit organization dedicated to restoring eyesight through corneal transplantation and ocular research.

An experience with organ donation during his first year of general surgery rotation made a lasting impression on Dr. Mamoun Pacha. It was 1976, and Dr. Pacha received a phone call from Dr. Johanssen, chief of the Renal Transplant Department at the University of Illinois. “Be ready,” she told him. They would be driving several hours to recover kidneys from an organ donor.

Dr. Pacha was nervous about assisting in such an important procedure, but he knew Dr. Johanssen was one of the most respected physicians in the field of surgery and transplantation.

As Dr. Pacha assisted in recovering the kidneys, he remembers another doctor at the head of the table who was recovering the donor’s eyes. He said to Pacha, “I have some important news to deliver to some nice people today.”

Back in Chicago, a nine-year-old Latino boy had been waiting on a compatible kidney donor for several years. He developed renal disease at a young age, and a transplant was his best hope. Dr. Pacha assisted Dr. Johanssen as they took the donor kidneys and performed a successful transplant for the little boy.

When Dr. Pacha checked on the young transplant recipient, a nurse shared a funny story. The boy had been so excited to use the bathroom after the surgery. “Urination was a privilege for him,” said Dr. Pacha. (more…)

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