MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Two scientists at the West Virginia University Eye Institute are benefiting from the Knights Templar Eye Foundation’s (KTEF) recent shift from focusing on clinical care to research.

WVU research associate Satyabrata Sinha, Ph.D., has been awarded $39,493 by the KTEF to study molecular chaperones — a kind of molecular machine that guides the formation of other proteins. Although molecular chaperones are critical to eye health, their role in the development of blinding diseases remains poorly understood. Dr. Sinha will use KTEF funding to explore the connection between the molecular chaperones and the healthy function of cells in the retina responsible for vision.

Ratnesh Kumar Singh, Ph.D., also received $40,000 from the KTEF. His research focuses on understanding lipid modifications of proteins needed for light perception. Defects in protein modification lead to various blinding diseases such as leber congenital amaurosis, a pediatric eye disease, and retinitis pigmentosa, a progressively blinding disease which affects more than 400,000 individuals in the U.S. alone.

Understanding the role of molecular chaperone and lipid modifications in the eye is expected to provide new strategies to prevent blinding diseases.

“Since 1956 the (KT) Eye Foundation has processed well over 80,000 applications from people requesting assistance for surgeries and care. Over the years, many West Virginians have been aided by the KTEF in receiving eye surgeries and care, but changes in the healthcare system have reduced this need. We can benefit the greater good of the community and the world by determining what causes these vision problems,” Edward E. Bell, grand commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of West Virginia, said.

The Knights Templar International is a Christian ecumenical organization founded in 1804 based on the traditions and values of the medieval Knights Templar. They promote human rights, political and religious freedom and humanitarian aid. The Knights Templar of West Virginia has approximately 3,000 members in 22 locations throughout the state.

Photo identifications (L to R): Judie F. Charlton, M.D.,  director of the WVU Eye Institute; Edward E. Ball, grand commander of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of West Virginia; Satyabrata Sinha, Ph.D.; Ratnesh Singh, Ph.D.;, Visvanathan Ramamurthy, Ph.D.; Max Sokolov, Ph.D.; and Paul Baker, grand standard bearer of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of West Virginia.

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
ab: 07-15-11