HSH Comedy Auction is March 24, 2018

Mark your calendars for Saturday, March 24, 2016 for the Hear See Hope comedy auction! We’re thrilled to welcome comedian Tony V. back for another night of laughs. Join us for an entertaining evening of comedy, delicious h’ourdourves, wine and other beverages, and bid on terrific items in our silent and live auctions. Don’t miss out on this evening of laughter, food, fun, dancing, and fundraising for a great cause. Help us laugh for a Cure for Usher Syndrome, the leading cause of deaf-blindness!

Visualizing a Cure

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A Proposal for the Hear See Hope Foundation

Understanding Cone Degeneration in Usher Syndrome And Retinitis Pigmentosa
Within the retina, photoreceptors make up one of the most important and most vulnerable cell classes afflicted by retinal degenerative diseases, like those present in Usher syndrome patients. Drs. Jennifer Chao and Ramukar Sabesan, clinical and research faculty at the UW Medicine Eye Institute and Vision Sciences Center, are collaborating on a new approach to visualize what happens to the photoreceptors damaged by retinal degeneration using high-resolution advanced adaptive optics imaging – a next generation technology developed in our labs. This research is critical to advancing our understanding of these diseases and whether potential therapies aimed at preserving and restoring central vision to patients will be successful.

Research Summary

  • The goal of this research project is to better understand the mechanism of how central vision is affected in patients with Usher Syndrome and Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) using our high-resolution adaptive optics imaging system.
  • Drs. Chao and Sabesan hypothesize that in patients with Usher Syndrome and RP, the cone photoreceptors (those responsible for our central vision) have impaired function early in the disease process — before there is loss of central vision — due to starvation of the cells.
  • At the UW Medicine Vision Sciences Center, we have designed and built an adaptive optics imaging system that can detect, measure, and map the structure and function of cone photoreceptors at an individual cell level in a living human eye.
  • With this new technology, we are now able to detect whether non-functional cone photoreceptors are present, and if they are capable of being stimulated.
  • Ultimately, this study will help us to determine whether potential therapies aimed at preserving and restoring central vision in patients with Usher Syndrome and RP will be successful.

A New Approach For Usher Syndrome
Recent approaches to treating diseases such as Usher Syndrome or RP include the use of stem cell transplants of photoreceptors, gene therapy, and chemical reanimation. However, a fundamental issue in understanding these diseases and translating potential therapies to patients is the ability to visualize their effectiveness at restoring function at the individual cell level. Until recently, the ability to study individual photoreceptor cell function in patients has been a challenge in the field because of the eye’s unique optics and because the retina is constantly moving.

The UW Medicine Eye Institute and Vision Sciences Center is one of only a few institutions in the United States to have designed and built an adaptive optics imaging system capable of imaging the human retina at a singular cellular level. Furthermore, our adaptive optics equipment has the ability to fix an image on the retina, allowing scientists to study cells that are not functioning properly and explore opportunities to stimulate those cells and measure the effects of any treatment with extreme precision.

Figure 1: Human foveal cone mosaic imaged with adaptive optics imaging system in the Sabesan lab. A) and B) are reflectance images with illumination centered at 543nm and 840nm respectively. Each spot denotes a cone photoreceptor and is about 2-4 microns in diameter. The scale bar is 20 microns.

Drs. Chao and Sabesan theorize that in patients with Usher Syndrome and RP, the central cones show signs of disruption in their structure and function before it is clinically noticeable. Several recent studies have shown that the loss of central cone function may be caused by the “starvation” of the cells following the loss of their rod photoreceptor counterparts. Using animal models with RP, researchers have shown that they can reverse some of the damage seen in cones and even restore their functionality with an injection of glucose into the subretinal space (4) (5) (6).

Using our adaptive optics imaging equipment, we propose to map the progression of cone photoreceptor dysfunction in patients with Usher syndrome and RP in order to gain a more complete picture of disease etiology, progression, and possibilities for clinical intervention. In addition, we also seek to demonstrate that cone photoreceptors are only dormant in Usher and RP patients and not completely lost. This finding in patients would confirm what has been observed in animal models and open up new avenues of research for the therapeutic reanimation of cones. The presence of dormant cones would that mean either preserving or restoring central vision in patients with late stage Usher Syndrome or RP is possible.

This new collaboration between the Chao and Sabesan Labs is an opportunity to test the feasibility of conducting these imaging studies in patients with a broad array of retinal diseases, such as will be possible in our new Retina Center at UW Medicine opening in 2018. This proposal is fundamentally distinct from the current efforts of both labs and is a natural next step in our pursuit to translate new therapies developed in the lab to new cures that can be administered clinically. With the results of this research, we intend to apply for federal NIH funding and other private grants in order to support continuing research in this new and promising area of study.

Budget
We have received initial funding support for this project from a Latham Vision Research Innovation Award, which was granted by the UW Medicine Department of Ophthalmology in August 2017.

 

With additional pilot funding of $25,000 or more from the Hear See Hope Foundation, we will be able to fund a portion of a salary for a research assistant for one year to aid in patient enrollment, image acquisition, analysis and interpretation of the data, and manuscript preparation. Additionally, these funds will be used towards the purchase of two new detectors that will allow us to acquire images of cone photoreceptors inner segments in Usher and RP patients.

We estimate that the full study will take three years to complete, with a total cost of $225,000. We envision this project as the beginning of a new field of research that will be ongoing at the UW Eye Institute and Retina Center. This funding will support the salary for a full-time research assistant ($60,000, including benefits) for three years, as well as provide partial salary for a clinical trials coordinator. It will also completely equip our current adaptive optics imaging equipment with the hardware needed to acquire images of cone inner segments or dormant cones ($30,000).

Thank You!
We are grateful for the past support of the Hear See Hope Foundation and we look forward to discussing this new proposal with you. Please feel free to contact Abbey Norris, director for philanthropy, at 206.221.8274 or abbeyn@uw.edu with any questions.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

REFERENCES

  1. Sabesan R, Schmidt BP, Tuten WS, & Roorda A (2016) The elementary representation of spatial and color vision in the human retina. Sci Adv 2(9):e1600797.
  2. Wang Q, et al. (2015) Adaptive optics microperimetry and OCT images show preserved function and recovery of cone visibility in macular telangiectasia type 2 retinal lesions. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 56(2):778-786.
  3. Tu JH, et al. (2017) Dysflective cones: Visual function and cone reflectivity in long-term follow-up of acute bilateral foveolitis. American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports 7:14-19.
  4. Du J, et al. (2016) Phototransduction Influences Metabolic Flux and Nucleotide Metabolism in Mouse Retina. J Biol Chem 291(9):4698-4710.
  5. Punzo C, Kornacker K, & Cepko CL (2009) Stimulation of the insulin/mTOR pathway delays cone death in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. Nat Neurosci 12(1):44-52.
  6. Wang W, et al. (2016) Two-Step Reactivation of Dormant Cones in Retinitis Pigmentosa. Cell Rep 15(2):372-385.

September 16 declared Usher Syndrome Awareness Day in Washington State

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee has proclaimed September 16 as Usher Syndrome Awareness Day. Washington joins a number of other states who observe Usher Syndrome Awareness Day on September 16. We spent the 16th filming our Hear See Hope Usher syndrome dance video, which will be available soon. It was a great way to spend the day. We feel truly blessed for all the families we met. Thanks again, Governor Inslee!

June 29, 2018: Kilimanjaro Climb for Usher Syndrome

Conner McKittrick, his dad Todd, brother Cole, doctors and staff who work with Conner, board members, and friends, are busy making plans to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro. The ascent begins June 29, 2018 and the goal is to promote greater awareness of Usher syndrome.

“This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us,” he says. Conner was diagnosed with Usher syndrome as a child. He will graduate from high school in 2018 with plans to attend college to study genetics.

“Spending this time with the people who have supported and encouraged me these many years – is something I think we’ll all treasure forever,” he adds.

There will be several opportunities to watch the team’s progress via regular video blogs and other social networking updates. The climb is being filmed for a documentary, which will be premiered at an event a few months after it is completed.

If you’re interested in joining us on our journey or want to donate, send an email to info@hearseehope.com.

Walking on the Via Francigena

Click here to make donate or make a pledge

From May 20 through 27, my wife and I will make a pilgrimage to Rome along the Via Francigena. This 10th Century pilgrims’ road stretches from Canterbury, England, all the way to Rome. That’s a long walk by modern standards – about 1,000km through France, Switzerland, and Italy – and would take at least two months to complete! So, we’ll pick the trail up in Bolsena, Italy, and walk about 140km to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

This will be a spiritual journey for us, but it will have an added dimension . . . we are walking for a cure to Usher Syndrome! Inch by inch, we will carefully pick our way over rocks, ford small rivers, and sometimes cross busy roads filled with Italian drivers (maybe the most dangerous aspect!). We will walk for Usher Syndrome. Every step we take on this journey will help us MARCH FORWARD toward a CURE of the most common cause of deaf/blindness in the United States! All your generous donations will go only toward The Hear See Hope Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to raising and giving out funds to research institutions so that the cure for Usher Syndrome could be found. And 100% of your donation will go for research.

For a little bit about ourselves: Maggie and I have been married 32 years. We have four beautiful children who are now adults. Maggie is a retired special education teacher and I’m a retired software developer. And, by the way, I have Usher Syndrome. I was born deaf with profound sensorial hearing loss and experienced adolescent-onset blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa, a symptom of Usher Syndrome.

Having Usher Syndrome is a lifelong disability that changes our body over time. I entered the world in silence, others experience the isolation more slowly, but we all struggle with hearing loss throughout childhood. Upon reaching adolescence we gradually lose our precious vision. Our peripheral vision becomes gradually more and more narrow, diminishing to only a few degrees. We see you and the rest of the world through a keyhole. We often stumble into people and things. Others are often perplexed and annoyed, because it seems we could see, so they ask why are we bumping into them? We fear darkness. When we step outside, nothing seems to be there except for a hand to hold, or a flashlight to guide our way. We fall more often than not. Staying balanced and walking a straight line pushes our vestibular system to the limits. The hardest part about all of this is losing our ability to communicate with you, our loved ones, and the world around us. Usher Syndrome affects so many!Is mise le meas! Maggie and Peter Devlin in the Pyranee Mountains.

With that said, we begin our journey with the hope that it becomes yours, also, and will make you that much more knowledgeable about Usher Syndrome. Your donations will be tax deductible and you can join us spiritually on our pilgrimage by following our blog at https://thedevlins.wordpress.com to “walk each step with us.” With your help, we hope to make a difference in helping to find a cure for Usher Syndrome. Won’t you help us Walk for a Cure for Usher Syndrome?

Click here to make donate or make a pledge

Is mise le meas,

Peter & Maggie

Classical Hands for a Cure

What: A classical piano concert benefitting Usher Syndrome.

Pianist: Kiera Daley

When: April 13, 2017

Where: The Old Rock Schoolhouse, Valdese, NC

For more information about this event or to learn more about the Daley family, please visit this page.

Click here to donate

Sensation 2017

Thursday, May 11, 2017

5:30-9:00 p.m.


Thanks to everyone who attended our 2017 Sensation Dining in the Dark event. It was a blast! Hosted at the Palace Ballroom, famous venue of renown Seattle Chef Tom Douglas, guests were treated to a five-course wine-paired meal while blindfolded. Sensation is designed to help raise awareness about Usher Syndrome, the leading cause of deafblindness.

Couldn’t attend but still want to donate? Click on the button below!

UW Medicine Eye Institute and the Hear See Hope Foundation

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Restoring Vision Loss Caused by Usher Syndrome

It is estimated that between 30,000 and 50,000 people in the United States suffer from Usher syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes deafness and blindness. Children with Usher syndrome are born with, or may develop, hearing loss. Then, as these children get older, they develop night blindness and their visual field narrows, creating “tunnel vision.” There are currently no treatments for Usher syndrome, but stem cell therapy holds great promise for restoring sight and benefiting patients worldwide.

The UW Medicine Eye Institute, the only academic Eye Institute in the five-state WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho), is at the frontier of developing new techniques to restore vision loss utilizing stem cell therapy. Building on a depth of research expertise, clinicians and scientists at our institute have partnered with the Hear See Hope Foundation to develop treatments for vision loss caused by Usher syndrome. We welcome your partnership to advance this innovative research.

Advancing Stem Cell Therapy
Jennifer Chao, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in UW Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, utilizes a special technique to create undifferentiated stem cells from a patient’s own skin or blood cells. These stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), contain a person’s entire genome and can be programmed to become almost any other cell in the body. Dr. Chao, in collaboration with Tom Reh, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Biological Structure, converts these iPSCs into retinal cells that are genetically identical to those found in the patient’s eye. Once the iPSCs have been grown into millions of copies of patient-specific retinal cells, high-throughput screening technology tests thousands of compounds on the cells in an effort to determine which of these compounds help the cells to survive. This process, called “cell rescue,” is a groundbreaking technique that could help identify already FDA-approved drugs capable of stopping or slowing the progression of vision loss in patients with Usher syndrome or other retinal degenerative diseases. While animal models exist for many other degenerative retinal diseases, this is not the case for Usher syndrome. This means that traditional basic research techniques used to test hypotheses in animal models cannot be performed for Usher syndrome. However, new techniques are being developed at UW Medicine to produce improved patient-derived cell culture models of Usher syndrome and other degenerative diseases to accelerate research. With UW Medicine’s streamlined approach, and our strong partnership with the Hear See Hope Foundation, we believe an effective cure will soon be made available to patients.

The Potential of Cell Rescue — From Concept to Cure
In 2013, the Chao Lab performed the first high-throughput screening of stem cells from patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This proof-of-concept study demonstrated promising results: multiple compounds were found to have therapeutic effects, facilitating cell rescue. We are now in the process of understanding the biological mechanisms of the cell rescue, as well as the dosing of potential therapeutic compounds. In 2015, with support from the Hear See Hope Foundation, the UW Medicine Eye Institute will begin using this same method to test stem cells derived from Usher syndrome patients.

Opportunities to Invest
We can accelerate the pace of research aimed at slowing or stopping vision loss in Usher syndrome patients with your philanthropic investment. Support of the UW Medicine Eye Institute will advance:

  • Research associated with collecting and growing millions of Usher syndrome patient-specific stem cells, as well as use of the high-throughput screening equipment to test potential treatments. $500,000
  • New studies of the mechanisms, dosing and bio-availability of potentially therapeutic compounds identified through high-throughput screening. $500,000
  • Implementation of advanced imaging technology — available only at UW Medicine — for understanding the retinal degeneration caused by Usher syndrome and assessing the effectiveness of new treatments. $150,000
  • Devoted Usher syndrome research support via part-time or full-time post-doctorate fellows. $40,000 to 60,000 per year

Join Us
By investing in our partnership, you can advance groundbreaking research that will bring hope for a cure to the thousands of children and individuals suffering from Usher syndrome worldwide.

To learn more, please contact Abbey Norris, director for philanthropy at UW Medicine, at 206.221.8274 or abbeyn@uw.edu. Thank you for your interest.

Walking the Camino de Santiago for Usher Syndrome Research

Peter and Maggie Devlin
Walking on the Camino de Santiago is a spiritual journey.  But for my wife and I, our pilgrimage will have the added dimension of Walking for a Cure. We will be walking for a cure to Usher Syndrome. Every step we take on this journey will help us march forward toward a cure of the most common cause of deaf/blindness!  On June 8, Maggie and I will trek across parts of the ancient Roman trade road, at one time called the “Milky Way”, from St. Jean de Pied, France, to Santiago de Compostella, Spain. We are embarking on the physically demanding journey as a fundraiser for a cure for Usher Syndrome. All of your generous donations will go only toward The Hear See Hope Foundation, an organization that is dedicated to raising and giving out funds to research institutions so that the cure for Usher Syndrome could be found. By the time we conclude the trek and fundraising on June 19, we will have walked nearly 200 km!

For a little bit about ourselves. Maggie and I have been married 30 years. We have four children who are now adults. Maggie is a special education teacher and I’m a now retired software developer.  I was born deaf with profound sensorial hearing loss and adolescent-onset blindness caused by retinitis pigmentosa. I have Usher Syndrome.

Having Usher Syndrome is a lifelong disability that changes our body over time. I entered the world in silence, others experience the isolation more slowly, but we all struggle with hearing loss throughout childhood. Upon reaching adolescence we gradually lose our precious vision. Our peripheral vision becomes gradually more and more narrow, diminishing to only a few degrees. We see you and the rest of the world through a keyhole. We often stumble into people and things. Others are often perplexed and annoyed, because it seems we could see, so they ask why are we bumping into them? We fear darkness. When we step outside, nothing seems to be there except for a hand to hold, or a flashlight to guide our way. We fall more often than not. Staying balanced and walking a straight line pushes our vestibular system to the limits. The hardest part about all of this is losing our ability to communicate with you, our loved ones, and the world around us. Usher Syndrome affects so many!

With that being said, we begin the trek with the hope that our journey is yours also, and that it will make you that much more aware about Usher Syndrome. When you make the tax deductible donation, you are spiritually walking with us. Please follow our blog at https://thedevlins.wordpress.com to “walk each step with us”.  With your help, we hope to make a big difference toward helping to find the cure to Usher Syndrome.

As Helen Keller said, “Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.” Won’t you help us Walk for a Cure to Ushers? Won’t you help us Walk for See Hear Hope?

See the Cure! Hear the Cure! Hope for the Cure!

Donate
Buen Camino!

Peter & Maggie

Learning to Live with Usher Syndrome

Connor and Dalton McKittrick are two brothers who are helping each other and learning to live with Usher syndrome.