A recently discovered compound by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation may be the key to retinopathy of prematurity and diabetic retinopathy treatment. This discovery is expected to open the way for therapies to reverse vision loss common in premature infants and adults.
Based on the latest study in the National Academy of Science proceedings, OMRF, the researchers identified a compound that is expected to open the way to therapies for eye diseases including retinopathy of prematurity and diabetic retinopathy.
Potentially, even patients with advanced disease progression could see everything changed,” said Courtney Griffin, Ph.D., the senior author of the study.
The leading researcher in the study Courtney Griffin, Ph.D. commented that even “patients with advanced disease progression could see their fortunes turned around,”.
Just like cancer cells growing out of control in the body, the blood vessels in the retina may grow out of control as well. Although this not in any way linked with cancer, it is a type of abnormality in the retina blood vessels blocking the light. In this type of retinopathy, the overgrowth of blood vessels may even cause total blindness.
Although it is usually resolved naturally in time, the Retinopathy in premature babies linked to high oxygen levels in NICU incubators interrupting normal vessel development in the eye sometimes doesn’t heal itself and therefore it may cause irreversible vision damage. Certain adult diabetic retinopathy cases could be irreversible vision damage as well.
The researchers in the study thought that there could be clues to thinning this tangle of vessels if a different set of vessels analyzed which naturally regress and disappear in mice soon after birth.
During the study when the newborn mice analyzed, the OMRF researchers found that levels of a specific class of cellular proteins crashed as the mice experienced normal blood vessel loss in the eye.
When the OMRF scientists studied newborn mice they realized that specific class of cellular protein levels crashed as the mice experienced normal blood vessel loss in the eye.
Also, the researchers think that these cellular proteins might be an important ‘off switch’ to eliminate these vessels in a neonatal model and this is indeed considered to be a new way for approaching these diseases. The current methods such as invasive surgeries and life-long injections into the eye could only prevent the disease from advancing which often causes serious complications.
Researcher Schafer identified an experimental compound disabling the proteins. During the study, they wanted to trick blood vessels in diseased mice into thinking they were supposed to be regressing and naturally dying off and this indeed was happened in the study.
The most encouraging thing in the study was that the compound only impacted abnormal blood vessels with slow blood flow. The needed normal vessels in a healthy eye were spared.
These findings certainly can pave the way to planned therapies to reverse vision loss as well as having implications in shrinking tumors that contain abnormal blood vessels in other parts of the body.
Given the fact that once these abnormal vessels have formed in the young eye, they’re susceptible to being treated,” said Griffin. The research team will now analyze the compound in models of adult eye diseases.
Although more research is needed, this discovery will certainly be a major advance in treatment for vision loss in patients of all ages.