February 9, 2012

National Advisory Eye Council adds VUMC’s Haines

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Jonathan Haines, Ph.D., has been appointed to the National Advisory Eye Council. (photo by Daniel Dubois)

National Advisory Eye Council adds VUMC’s Haines

Jonathan Haines, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Center for Human Genetics Research, has been appointed to the National Advisory Eye Council.

The council advises the National Eye Institute and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services about policies and funding related to research on vision and eye diseases, and helps review applications for grants and cooperative agreements supported by the institute.

“It’s an honor to be appointed to this position. This is an exciting time for genomics and its application to ocular disease,” said Haines, Louise B. McGavock Professor of Human Genetics, chief of the Division of Human Genomics and professor of Molecular Physiology & Biophysics, Neurology and Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences.

Haines is internationally known for his role in identifying genes associated with complex disorders, including amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism and eye disease.

In 2005, he and colleagues at Vanderbilt and Duke University discovered the first major gene that increases the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in Caucasians over age 50.

Since then, they have reported that a combination of cigarette smoking and a particular genetic variation raises the risk of developing the disease more than either factor alone, and that a variation in the DNA of mitochondria, the “power plants” of cells, is another risk factor for AMD.

Haines also contributed to the discovery, reported last year by researchers at Vanderbilt and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, of a new candidate gene for the most common form of glaucoma.

A fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Haines attended his first advisory council meeting last week in Bethesda, Md. The council meets three times yearly to review and revise priorities for the National Eye Institute.