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Prof. Kefalov ranks among top 10 specialists in human vision studies in the USA

Professor Vladimir Kefalov
Photo: Personal archive

Professor Vladimir Kefalov is among the scientists who have been awarded the prestigious Bresler Prize in Vision Science. Professor Kefalov earned the award in 2019 for his groundbreaking work on photoreceptor cells in the retina. His research is a significant step in the fight against some of the most serious diseases that often cause blindness.

The Bulgarian physicist, who has lived and worked in the USA for nearly three decades, ran his own research laboratory overseas, earning acclaim as a luminary in the realm of retinal research within scientific circles.

In the early 1990s, when young Vladimir went to the USA, his father was making plans for him to pursue a diplomatic career. It took him a long time to accept that the physics his son had taken up could be just as rewarding. Vladimir himself hardly expected that a time would come when America would rank him among its top 10 specialists in the study of human vision. "I started with physics in Bulgaria, then studied biophysics in Boston," says Prof. Vladimir Kefalov in an interview with Elena Tsaneva, BNR correspondent in Chicago. And adds:

"A love of science on the one hand and a love of a more independent life on the other were the two things that brought me to the US. I came to Boston to do my PhD in biophysics. Subsequently, I did graduate research at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. For almost two decades I ran my own laboratory in St. Louis, Missouri, and later at Washington University. For the past few years I have resided in Southern California, the kingdom of oranges. It really is a paradise, wonderful climate, beautiful sea, but it was not the dream of my life, it just happened," says Professor Kefalov.

Professor Vladimir Kefalov with his family.
The professor currently lives in Orange County, surrounded by orange orchards. He and his wife Maya Kefalova have three grown children who have taken their own paths in life. And yes, Prof. Kefalov is a man of science! But if you picture him with a white beard, a distracted look and a serious face, it has nothing to do with the affable middle-aged man who likes to joke around and tour America on a motorcycle. He claims to have visited 46 of America's 48 states on two wheels. He also loves music and is still in love with physics! Vladimir Kefalov's research focuses on the treatment of diseases that cause vision loss. Which of these diseases is among the most common and most difficult to treat?

"Perhaps the most common and most widespread disease is macular degeneration, which occurs in a large percentage of older people. The older a person is, the greater the chance of developing this disease. My uncle had macular degeneration. Unfortunately, it is still a disease that is not curable. Many researchers are trying to find a treatment for this very complicated disease. Scientists don't even know what causes it yet."

A family vacation.
The Bulgarian physicist and his team have conducted various studies, some of which have been based on gene therapy. 

"My lab focuses more on something easier, namely the disease retinitis pigmentosa," explains Vladimir Kefalov. - It is also associated with degeneration of the visual cells, but it is easier to find out the underlying cause. Usually it's genetic mutations, and we are developing therapies that we hope will also be applicable to macular degeneration."

Prof. Prof. Kefalov (second from left) with his team.
If given the opportunity, Professor Vladimir Kefalov would be happy to collaborate on projects with his Bulgarian colleagues, as the scientist said in an interview with BNR.

Text by Veneta Nikolova /based on an interview by Elena Tsaneva, BNR-Horizont's Chicago correspondent
Photos: Personal archive
Translated and posted by Elizabeth Radkova

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