Nonprofit Eversight Fellowships Grant Wayne State’s Dr Ashok Kumar for Ocular Research on COVID-19 – School of Medicine News
Ashok Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology, visual and anatomical sciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine, received a grant from the Eversight Center for Vision and Eye Banking Research to advance his promising ophthalmic research.
Dr Kumar is investigating whether epithelial cells on the ocular surface are susceptible to infection with SARS-CoV-2. His study could help fill a knowledge gap at the intersection of COVID-19, ophthalmology and public health.
“I would like to thank Eversight for not only providing funding for the project, but also eye tissue from COVID-19 donors,” said Dr Kumar. “Our recent study in collaboration with Eversight showed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral RNA and its spike and envelope proteins in the cornea of COVID-19 patients.”
The report “Prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 in human post-mortem eye tissue” was published in The ocular surfaceJanuary 2021 issue.
“In the proposed study, we will go one step further and test whether the live SARS-CoV-2 virus can infect cells on the ocular surface,” he added. “The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency and as a microbiologist it is my professional responsibility to bring the scientific knowledge necessary to understand the biology of this virus which can eventually lead to the development of drugs. Since 2016, our laboratory has been working on the Zika virus, which shares some similarity with SARS-CoV-2 as a positive-strand RNA virus. We took that knowledge and started this project to study ocular complications of COVID-19. This Eversight pilot funding will help generate preliminary data to seek funding from the National Institutes of Health and allow us to continue this much needed research of national and international significance.
Dr Kumar is one of five fellows selected by an independent review committee made up of academic researchers and ophthalmologists.
“Dr. Kumar’s studies of COVID-19 in the eye will elucidate and fill gaps in our knowledge base that will be critical to the development of new treatments for patients, ”said Linda Hazlett, Ph.D. , Associate Dean of Research at the School of Medicine.
The proposals selected for funding align with Eversight’s mission to restore sight and prevent blindness through meaningful scientific investigation.
“The pool of applicants has once again demonstrated a scientific curiosity and academic integrity that continues to impress our review board through each funding cycle,” said Onkar Sawant, Ph.D., Director of Research and innovations from Eversight. “The Eversight Center for Vision Research and Eye Banks remains dedicated to supporting the fundamental ocular investigations of our partners. We look forward to the results of these five projects and how they may expand our current knowledge about Fuchs dystrophy, dry eye, transplant rejection and more.
Eversight is a non-profit organization whose mission is to restore sight and prevent blindness through donation, transplantation and research. The Eversight Network is responsible for the recovery, evaluation and delivery of human eye tissue for transplantation; to support research into the causes and cures of blinding eye conditions; promoting awareness of donation through education of the public and professionals; and providing humanitarian assistance to people around the world in need of corneal transplants.
Operating in Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, and South Korea, Eversight works collaboratively with surgeons, researchers, academic medical centers and ophthalmic banks in the United States and abroad.
“Dr. Kumar is a leading viral researcher. In this time of pandemic, understanding COVID-19 and the virus is critical, and Dr. Kumar’s work is helping to achieve this scientific goal, ”said Mark Juzych, MD, professor and director of the Department of Ophthalmology, Visual and anatomical. Sciences and director of the Kresge Eye Institute.