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Kellogg Home to New Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative

According to the JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation), nearly 80 percent of people with type 1 diabetes develop diabetic retinal disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists diabetes as a leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults.

JDRF and the Mary Tyler Moore & S. Robert Levine, M.D. Charitable Foundation recently took a bold step to change this reality, launching the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative, a multipronged scientific initiative to end diabetes-related vision loss.

A key step of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative is to establish a centralized human eye tissue biorepository in order to characterize the changes associated with diabetes. Because the retina is difficult to biopsy safely and without visual complications, understanding changes in human retinas has been a significant limiting factor for the development of novel therapies.

The Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative Ocular Biorepository and Tissue Sharing Network has been established by the U-M Kellogg Eye Center and the U-M Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute, which hosts a JDRF Center of Excellence. It will make high quality human tissues and data accessible to the diabetic retinal disease research community worldwide.

The project is spearheaded by Kellogg’s Patrice Fort, Ph.D., M.S., a neuroscientist specializing in retinal neurodegenerations, particularly diabetic retinopathy. The specific protocols used to ensure the quality of ocular tissue samples and the associated data were developed in Dr. Fort’s lab over 10 years of collaboration with national eye banks. Additional expertise and support are provided by the Central Biorepository of the U-M Medical School.

“Kellogg is fortunate to have longstanding partnerships with the nation’s top eye banks,” Dr. Fort says. “We are coordinating with them to procure high quality post-mortem tissue samples.”

While this is the first biorepository solely devoted to diabetes-related eye research, it builds on the success of another branch of diabetes research. “We are grateful for the guidance we are receiving from the Network for Pancreatic Organ Donors with Diabetes or nPOD, which has been providing pancreas tissue samples for research since 2007.”

The biorepository began operations in late 2022. The goal is to collect a total of 1,000 samples over the next four years, image, analyze, characterize and catalog each one and then coordinate their use by diabetes investigators around the world.