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NAEVR Request for Congress to Add "Eye and Vision Research"
To List of Eligible Research within the Congressionally-directed Medical Research Program

Request Summary

On behalf of the eye and vision research community, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) requests that "Eye and Vision Research" be added to the research categories eligible for funding within the Congressionally-directed Medical Research Programs in the FY2006 Department of Defense (DOD) Appropriations.

Background

Of the five senses, vision is the most critical for the optimal performance of our nation's military defense, whether directly in combat conditions or in the activities which support the military. Battlefield conditions require uncompromised visual acuity-whether a ground soldier, pilot or seaman is viewing the battlefield directly or through the aid of visual enhancement devices. Visual acuity is also essential for peak performance of personnel that operate the computer-assisted tracking and guidance systems that support the battlefield, since these systems present data almost exclusively through a visual screen, scan or readout.

Despite its essential nature to our defense, vision is the sense most vulnerable to injury in battlefield conditions, whether from direct trauma (for example, 15 percent of wartime injuries include the eye, and those with optic nerve trauma are the most grave), biohazards or environmental conditions which foster abrasion and infection (e.g. sand, humidity, etc.). Although the examples above primarily describe initially acute conditions, these insults to the eye may have long-term or chronic implications for an individual's vision health and productivity through the remainder of their military service and into their civilian lives.

Since the active and retired military population is both large and diverse in terms of gender, race and age, there is a disproportionate incidence of vision impairment and eye disease within sub-populations in this community. Research may be able to better characterize these differences and find effective treatments and therapies for vision impairment and eye disease conditions associated with these sub-populations.

Request to Add "Eye and Vision Research" to the CDMRP

Since the category of "Eye and Vision Research" is rather broad, this request proposes that three sub-categories of research most applicable to defense applications be specified:

Visual Acuity

Research within this category relates to the metabolic and physiological processes that relate to visual clarity, contrast sensitivity and spatial orientation. Examples of research in this area include:

  • Impact of metabolic modulation or stress on visual acuity and contrast sensitivity (e.g., effect of lowered blood glucose levels on central vision)

  • Visual image processing (better understanding of the biological/electrochemical interface in the vision process to improve acuity and advance "artificial vision" and assistive technology)

  • Spatial orientation processing (relation of motor control and perception, especially relating to depth perception of objects in a visual field)

  • Next-generation refractive error correction and vision augmentation research (e.g., LASIK, visual implants/prostheses and associated corneal healing issues)

Eye Trauma and Infection

Research within this category relates to the acute and chronic implications of eye trauma that ranges from significant to minor, and the associated potential incidence of eye infection. Examples of research in this area include:

  • Treatment of eye trauma caused by a physical, chemical or biological agent insult, including ocular surface infection control and healing

  • Treatment of corneal damage by corneal transplantation or through the use of corneal stem cell transplantation

  • Optic nerve regeneration (either through identification of genes involved or through other processes)

  • Eye infection control (including infections associated with the skin around the eye, the corneal surface, or within the ocular globe, and the impact of environmental conditions that promote infection)

  • Laser safety (preventative eye injury research)

Vision Health Disparities

Research within this category relates to the characterization of visual disparities based upon gender, race or age and determination of the underlying physiological basis to develop treatments and therapies. Examples of research in this area include:

  • Epidemiologic studies of military populations to determine extent/physiological basis of vision health disparities (e.g. greater incidence of glaucoma, cataract and diabetic retinopathy in the African/American/Hispanic populations)

  • Low vision research (result of traumatic eye injury or chronic eye disease, such as age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma)
Age-related macular degeneration research (leading cause of blindness in US/leading cause of blindness in Americans age 60+)