NAEVR Cites NEI-Funded Research on Preventative Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Retinal Disease As Dramatic Example of Need for Increased FY2008 NIH Funding

June 24, 2007
CONTACT: James F. Jorkasky
Executive Director
[email protected]


(Washington, D.C.) Today, the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) cited a just-released National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded study which demonstrates the protective effect of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids against retinopathy (deterioration of the retina) in mice as a dramatic example of the types of groundbreaking research that must be adequately funded by the federal government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2008 appropriations for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) currently being considered by Congress.

The study, published in the July 2007 edition of the journal Nature Medicine, is important for several reasons. Retinopathy in the mouse shares many characteristics with Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) in humans, a disease of premature infants in which blood vessels proliferate in the retina, leading to bleeding, scarring, and potential blindness. Following up on this finding, NEI will fund a clinical trial to test the effects of omega-3 supplements in premature infants.

The study also found that this disease process may also apply to both diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the latter of which is the leading cause of vision loss in Americans. The NEI is currently conducting the second phase of its Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS2), which will assess the effect of omega-3 fatty acids on the progression of AMD. The first phase of AREDS demonstrated that antioxidant vitamins and minerals reduced the progression of the moderate stage of AMD to the severe stage of the disease by 25 percent.

“As noted by this just-released study’s co-lead author and NEI scientist Dr. John Paul SanGiovanni, the NEI is identifying low cost and widely available nutrient-based treatment approaches that may show merit in future research on diseases that damage retinal blood vessels and nerve cells,” stated NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky, who reiterated that disease preemption and prevention are hallmarks of the NIH research paradigm for the 21st century, as described by NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni.

On June 22, NEI Director Dr. Paul Sieving testified before the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee, focusing his comments on the vision public health challenge resulting from the aging of the baby boom generation. “With research ranging from ROP in infants to AMD in seniors, the NEI affects and benefits Americans at all stages of life,” said Jorkasky, who added that this is a major justification for NIH/NEI funding increases currently being considered in Congress.

The FY2008 Senate LHHS appropriations bill, approved by the full Senate Appropriations Committee on June 21, increases NIH funding by $1 billion to $29.9 billion and NEI by $14.8 million to $682 million. The House bill, marked up in Subcommittee on June 7, increases NIH funding by $750 million to $29.6 billion and NEI by $9.9 million to $677 million. Both are significant increases over the President’s FY2008 budget proposal.

The National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR) is a non-profit advocacy coalition comprised of 55 professional, consumer, and industry organizations involved in eye and vision research. NAEVR’s goal is to achieve the best vision for all Americans through advocacy and public education for eye and vision research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Eye Institute (NEI), and other federal research entities. Visit NAEVR’s Web site at