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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Retired NEI Senior Investigator Datiles Mourned

Datiles holds plaque.

Dr. Manny Datiles receives an HHS Innovation Award in 2011.

Photo: Christopher Smith

Retired NEI senior investigator, eye physician-scientist and medical officer Dr. Manuel “Manny” Datiles III passed away on Feb. 12. In his nearly 40-year career at NEI, he worked to find the causes and possible cures for blinding cataracts. He was recognized around the world for his expertise in cataract documentation, pathogenesis and medical treatment and prevention. 

Datiles trained as a basic eye researcher at NEI and as an eye clinician and surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital, sub-specializing in cataract and corneal diseases. He became NEI’s primary cornea and cataract clinical investigator, serving as chief of the cataract and cornea section of the Ophthalmic Genetics and Clinical Services Branch in 1992. He helped open the NIH operating room for eye surgery and performed hundreds of complex anterior segment eye procedures on research patients from around the world.  

In the lab, he worked with the late Dr. Jin Kinoshita to demonstrate that aldose reductase inhibitor (ARI) drugs could prevent cataracts in animal models. ARIs are now used to prevent cataracts in diabetic dogs. He also co-discovered a novel lens protein in guinea pigs, the zeta-crystallin, with NEI protein chemist Dr. Sam Zigler. 

In collaboration with NASA physicist Rafat Ansari, Datiles co-developed a special clinical device based on a dynamic light-scattering technique and used it to show that oxidation-caused loss of a lens protein—alpha-crystallin, a molecular chaperone—leads to the formation of human age-related cataracts. This finding will help hasten the development of non-surgical anti-cataract drug treatment for use in many parts of the world where cataract surgery is not available. This was Datiles’ most important professional goal.

Datiles also helped care for hundreds of NCI and NHLBI patients who received stem cell transplants. He led a clinical trial of blood serum eye drops for patients who developed severe dry eye as a consequence of therapy.

He published more than 100 peer-reviewed papers, reviews and book chapters. He helped train many young eye physician-scientists from around the world who are now senior faculty and leading clinicians and scientists.

He received awards from the Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, NEI, NIH, Johns Hopkins University, University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines as well as many civic and charitable societies for his contributions.  

After retirement he served as a special volunteer at NEI, a member of the NIH institutional review board, and as an adjunct associate professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

He is survived by his wife, Jacqueline, 6 children and 4 grandchildren.  

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