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."

Explore further: Identifying abnormal protein levels in diabetic retinopathy

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

Identifying abnormal protein levels in diabetic retinopathy

May 12, 2008

Researchers in Massachusetts are reporting an advance in bridging huge gaps in medical knowledge about the biochemical changes that occur inside the eyes of individuals with diabetic retinopathy (DR) — a leading cause of ...

Natural compound stops retinopathy

July 2, 2009

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have found a way to use a natural compound to stop one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. The research appears online this month in the ...

Blocking protein may prevent blinding disease

September 16, 2009

Blocking a protein that battles infection may help thwart a common cause of vision loss in chronic diseases such as diabetes, Medical College of Georgia researchers say.

Recommended for you

Basic research fuels advanced discovery

August 26, 2016

Clinical trials and translational medicine have certainly given people hope and rapid pathways to cures for some of mankind's most troublesome diseases, but now is not the time to overlook the power of basic research, says ...

New method creates endless supply of kidney precursor cells

August 25, 2016

Salk Institute scientists have discovered the holy grail of endless youthfulness—at least when it comes to one type of human kidney precursor cell. Previous attempts to maintain cultures of the so-called nephron progenitor ...

New avenue for understanding cause of common diseases

August 25, 2016

A ground-breaking Auckland study could lead to discoveries about many common diseases such as diabetes, cancer and dementia. The new finding could also illuminate the broader role of the enigmatic mitochondria in human development.

Strict diet combats rare progeria aging disorders

August 25, 2016

Mice with a severe aging disease live three times longer if they eat thirty percent less. Moreover, they age much healthier than mice that eat as much as they want. These are findings of a joint study being published today ...

0 comments

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.