Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Chair For the Study of Retinal Degeneration
Ernest and Yvette Villere so believed in the promise of research that they left a legacy in the form of an endowed chair to the LSU Health Sciences Center to ensure that the problem of retinal degeneration would one day be solved. What the Villeres did not know was that in addition to investing in a dream of their own, they provided a foundation for research that would logically expand beyond the eye and into the brain.
Officially dedicated in 1992, the Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Chair for the study of Retinal Degeneration supports the research of Dr. Nicolas G. Bazan. Dr. Bazan discovered an important link between the fatty acid DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and retinal function. His findings target a new area of drug research and development that could have major implications for curing retinal degeneration. His research in this area continues and is outlined below.
In addition to retinal research, the Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Chair has seeded the growth of expanded research in the neurosciences. As Director of the Neuroscience Center of Excellence, Dr. Bazan continues his innovative research in the protection and regeneration of brain cells after injury from epilepsy, stroke, and trauma. Teams of basic and clinical investigators from a variety of disciplines are also pursuing research in neurodegenerative diseases, such as Lou Gehrig's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, and Parkinson's Disease among others.
The LSU Neuroscience Center of Excellence is indeed an outgrowth of the Ernest C. and Yvette C. Villere Retinal Degeneration Research Program. A second chair in the Villeres name has also been funded and named at the University of New Orleans. The Villere Chairs, the LSU Neurosciences Center of Excellence, and the UNO Research & Technology Park form an interactive network, the collaboration of which will create a synergy targeted at conquering the last frontier for medicine - the brain.
The Villere research program is four-fold and includes:
Research to understand the biological events that underlie the normal function of the retina and how cells of the retina communicate with each other;
Research to define the biochemical steps that are altered in retinal degeneration;
Research to identify the relationship between nutrition and the composition and dynamics of the retinal photoreceptors;
Research to identify signal transduction events including gene expression in retinal pigment epithelial cells in healthy retinas and in eyes afflicted by retinal degenerative diseases.