Community celebrates its
own in Washington, DC
India Abroad February 18, 2011
A snapshot from the event
Braving the freezing cold, hundreds of Indian Americans
from the Washington, DC metropolitan area celebrated
India’s 62nd Republic Day with pomp and fanfare at the
High Point High School in Beltsville, Maryland.
The theme of the celebration, organized by the National
Council of Asian Indian Associations with other Indian-
American groups, was ‘India, a Global Power.’
At the event, the community honored Sam Arora and
Aruna Miller, second-generation Indian-American
Democrats elected to the Maryland House of Representa-
tives in November.
Jayakrishna Ambati leads breakthrough in
understanding old-age blindness
University of Kentucky ophthalmologist Dr
Jayakrishna Ambati and his team have discovered one of the leading causes of blindness in older people and developed two
Till this discovery, there was no scientific
explanation for the occurrence of age-relat-ed macular degeneration or AMD, which,
according to the National Eye Institute, is a
leading cause of vision loss among people
over 60. AMD gradually destroys central
vision by affecting the macula, the part of
the eye that allows you to see fine detail.
Ambati and team discovered a molecular
mechanism implicated in geographic atrophy, the major cause of untreatable blindness in the industrialized world.
Geographic atrophy, a condition causing
the death of cells in the retina, occurs in the
later stages of the ‘dry type’ of macular
degeneration, a disease affecting some 10
million older Americans and causing blindness in over 1 million. There is currently no
effective treatment for geographic atrophy,
Dr Jayakrishna Ambati
as its cause is unknown.
Ambati’s team discovered that an accu-
mulation of a toxic type of RNA, called Alu
RNA, causes retinal cells to die in patients
with geographic atrophy. In a healthy eye, a
‘dicer’ enzyme degrades the Alu RNA parti-
This is the first time that scientists have
found a disease-causing role for the non-coding ‘junk’ DNA.
The findings were published online by
the prestigious journal Nature.
Ambati’s team also demonstrated the efficacy of both therapies they developed using
laboratory models. The first involves
increasing dicer levels in the retina by
‘over-expressing’ the enzyme. The second
involves blocking Alu RNA using an ‘
anti-sense’ drug that binds and degrades this
The university has filed patent applications for both technologies, and Ambati’s
group is preparing to start clinical trials by
the end of this year.
The response from the scientific community has been enthusiastic.
‘These findings,’ said Dr Paul Sieving,
director, National Eye Institute, ‘provide
important new clues on the biological basis
of geographic atrophy and may provide
avenues for intervention through prevent-
ing toxic accumulation of abnormal RNA
Dr Napoleone Ferrara, a member of the
National Academy of Sciences and Lasker-
DeBakey awardee, said, ‘Dr Ambati’s latest
research provides important mechanistic
insights in geographic atrophy, and identi-
fication of this novel pathway may result in
new therapeutic targets for a major cause