UofL’s Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences will receive the donation. The department has several active research studies to examine various aspects of macular degeneration – from its basic causes to clinical treatment of patients with new medicines as well as stem cells, said Henry Kaplan, Evans professor and department chair.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in people age 55 and over.
A resident of San Clemente, Calif., Matlock was diagnosed with wet macular degeneration 10 years ago. Through treatment, she has retained her vision and can drive. Her mother, however, was blind for the last 10 years of her life. Although her mother was never diagnosed officially, her family believes she also may have suffered from the disease.
“I’m focusing on the eye because of my personal experience,” Matlock said of her gifts. “I’m hoping that no one else will go blind as my mother did or as I probably would have if I were not getting the care I am now.
“The advances in the treatment of macular degeneration are possible because of what has been learned through research, and it is my goal to keep that research going so we can discover more about what causes this disease, how to prevent it and how to most effectively treat and even cure it in the future,” she said.
Matlock’s gift brings her total contributions to the university to more than $5 million in the past three years.
Macular degeneration can start slowly, and many people do not notice any symptoms at first. Over time, as the retina degenerates, patients can begin to experience a loss of the sharp, central vision that allows them to see objects clearly.
There are two forms of macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration occurs when abnormal blood vessels begin to grow beneath the retina and leak blood and fluid, quickly causing damage to the central retina. Dry macular degeneration occurs when the light-sensitive cells in the retina slowly break down, gradually blurring vision and also eventually leading to the loss of central vision. An estimated 10 million Americans suffer from macular degeneration, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.
“Dr. Matlock’s extraordinarily generous support of our research in macular degeneration speaks to the compassionate and selfless person she is, both as a physician and as a human being,” Kaplan said. “We continue to be humbled and incredibly grateful for the confidence she has shown in us.”