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Oct 19, 2013 09:46 AM EDT

Tycoon Inflicted With Rare Eye Disease Believes University Of Iowa Is Close To Finding Cure

Las Vegas casino tycoon Steve Wynn donated $25 million to the University of Iowa in support of their blindness research.

Wynn, chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts, said he's sharing his fortune because he believes researchers at the university are "knocking on the door" of a discovery that was unimaginable when he was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease in his 20s, the Associated Press reported.

Researchers at the University of Iowa are studying to find a cure for genetic eye diseases. The goal is to develop effective treatments for all diseases that cause blindness, as rare or common as they may be.

"As a person who knows firsthand what it is like to lose vision from a rare inherited eye disease, I want to do everything I can to help others who are similarly affected keep the vision they have and eventually get back what they have lost," he said in a statement.

The 71-year-old said there was no hope for individuals inflicted with conditions such as retinitis pigmentosa, which has compromised Wynn's vision over the last 50 years and causes nighttime blindness and a lack of peripheral vision. University of Iowa President Sally Mason said Wynn's donation will help the college make major progress toward curing blindness.

"Mr. Wynn's inspirational gift provides the resources that will help make finding treatments and cures a reality," she said in a press release. ­

Wynn believes it's possible that within his lifetime scientists will be able to use stem cells to restore vision.

"I am thrilled but the pace of the scientific progress that has occurred in the past few years and I feel that the prospect of finding a cure is possible and probable in the short term and certain in the long term," he said.

In return for his generous donation, the university renamed the UI Institute of Vision Research to Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research.

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