Study finds novel therapy that may prevent damage to the retina in diabetic eye diseases

July 27, 2012

Researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center have identified a compound that could interrupt the chain of events that cause damage to the retina in diabetic retinopathy. The finding is significant because it could lead to a novel therapy that targets two mechanisms at the root of the disease: inflammation and the weakening of the blood barrier that protects the retina.

To date, treatments for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness among working-age Americans, have been aimed largely at one of those mechanisms.

In diabetic retinopathy, damage to the results, in part, from the activity of (VEGF), a protein that weakens the protective blood-retinal barrier. Recent drugs targeting VEGF have exhibited good response for nearly half of the patients with diabetic retinopathy. But researchers believe that there is also an inflammatory component that may contribute to the disease process.

The study, published in the , June 2012 [epub ahead of print] identifies a specific protein common to both pathways as an important in regulating the disease process in which blood vessels become leaky, and provides a drug that may be developed into a for patients in which anti-VEGF treatment alone is not sufficient.

"In diabetic retinopathy and a host of other retinal diseases, increases in VEGF and inflammatory factors — some of the same factors that contribute to the response to an infection — cause blood vessels in the eye to leak which, in turn, results in a buildup of fluid in the neural tissue of the retina," says David A. Antonetti, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Molecular and Integrative Physiology, who has also been awarded a Jules and Doris Stein Professorship from Research to Prevent Blindness. "This insidious form of modified inflammation can eventually lead to blindness."

The compound targets atypical protein kinase C (aPKC), required for VEGF to make blood vessels leak. Moreover, Antonetti's laboratory has demonstrated that the compound is effective at blocking damage from tumor necrosis factor also elevated in that comprises part of the inflammation. Benefits of this compound could extend to therapies for uveitis, or changes to the brain blood vessels in the presence of brain tumors or stroke.

"This is a great leap forward," says Antonetti. "We've identified an important target in regulating blood vessel leakage in the eye and we have a therapy that works in animal models. Our research is in the early stages of development. We still have a long way to go to demonstrate effectiveness of this compound in humans to create a new therapy but the results are very promising."

More information: Novel Atypical PKC Inhibitors Prevent Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-Induced Blood-Retinal Barrier Dysfunction, Biochemical Journal, 22 June 2012 [epub ahead of print]

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Natural compound reduces signs of aging in healthy mice

October 27, 2016

Much of human health hinges on how well the body manufactures and uses energy. For reasons that remain unclear, cells' ability to produce energy declines with age, prompting scientists to suspect that the steady loss of efficiency ...

A metabolic switch to turn off obesity

October 27, 2016

You've tried all the diets. No matter: you've still regained the weight you lost, even though you ate well and you exercised regularly! This may be due to a particular enzyme in the brain: the alpha/beta hydrolase domain-6 ...

Mitochondria control stem cell fate

October 27, 2016

What happens in intestinal epithelial cells during a chronic illness? Basic research conducted at the Chair of Nutrition and Immunology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) addressed this question by generating a new ...

Scientists develop 'world-first' 3-D mammary gland model

October 27, 2016

A team of researchers from Cardiff University and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute has succeeded in creating a three-dimensional mammary gland model that will pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.