Ilene K. Gipson, senior scientist and ocular surface scholar at The Schepens Eye Research Institute, and professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, has received a $65,000 Senior Scientific Investigator Award from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB).
Gipson, an internationally recognized expert on the cornea and ocular surface, is a cell biologist who has contributed substantially to the body of knowledge regarding protective mechanisms used by the cell layers of the front of the eye. These mechanisms are essential to protecting the ocular surface and, in turn, the cornea from damage, drying, and infection. The cornea is the transparent window that allows passage of light into the eye.
“I am very honored to receive this award and very grateful to Research to Prevent Blindness for selecting my work for support. The surface of the eye is the first line of defense for the all-important visual system, and understanding its function is important to the development of therapies to treat diseases that affect vision,” Gipson said.
Among Gipson’s research interests is the role of mucins, a class of molecules important for maintaining adequate moisture on the eye’s surface and for preventing adherence of pathogens. An expert on mucins, she is trying to unravel what regulates their production and what makes them dysfunctional. Understanding the production and function of these molecules may lead to efficacious treatment for several ocular surface diseases, including dry eye syndrome – a set of conditions that are not only irritating and uncomfortable but also may lead to vision loss.
Since its founding in 1960, RPB has channeled millions of dollars to institutions for research into the causes, treatment, and prevention of blinding diseases. The Schepens Eye Research Institute, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, is the largest independent eye research center in the nation, both in size of faculty and support from the National Eye Institute. Begun in 1950, The Schepens Eye Research Institute has a faculty of more than 60 scientists, including molecular and cell biologists, immunologists, and physicists who investigate cures for blinding diseases and aids for people with low vision. Many diagnostic techniques and devices, surgical methods, and medications related to eye disease have been developed by Institute faculty.