Scientists visualize new treatments for retinal blindness

March 26, 2014, Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

A new report published online in The FASEB Journal may lead the way toward new treatments or a cure for a common cause of blindness (proliferative retinopathies). Specifically, scientists have discovered that the body's innate immune system does more than help ward off external pathogens. It also helps remove sight-robbing abnormal blood vessels, while leaving healthy cells and tissue intact. This discovery is significant as the retina is part of the central nervous system and its cells cannot be replaced once lost. Identifying ways to leverage the innate immune system to "clean out" abnormal blood vessels in the retina may lead to treatments that could prevent or delay blindness, or restore sight.

"Our findings begin to identify a new role of the by which endogenous mediators selectively target the pathologic retinal vasculature for removal," said Kip M. Connor, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Ophthalmology at the Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Angiogenesis Laboratory in Boston, MA. "It is our hope that future studies will allow us to develop specific therapeutics that harnesses this knowledge resulting in a greater visual outcome and quality of life for patients suffering from diabetic retinopathy or retinopathy of prematurity."

To make this discovery, Connor and colleagues compared two groups of mice, a genetically modified group which lacked activity in the innate immune complement system, and a normal group with a fully functional innate immune system. Researchers placed both groups in an environment that induced irregular in the eye, mimicking what happens in many human ocular diseases. The mice that were lacking a functional innate immune system developed significantly more irregular blood vessels than the normal mice, indicating that the complement system is a major regulator of growth within the eye. Importantly, in the normal mice, scientists were able to visualize the targeting and killing only the irregular blood vessels while leaving unharmed.

"Knowing how the complement system works to keep our retinas clean is an important first-step toward new treatments that could mimic this activity," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "It's a new understanding of how proliferative retinopathies rob us of sight, and promises to let us see the path ahead clearly."

Explore further: Protein responsible for 'bad' blood vessel growth discovered

More information: J. Harry Sweigard, Ryoji Yanai, Philipp Gaissert, Magali Saint-Geniez, Keiko Kataoka, Aristomenis Thanos, Gregory L. Stahl, John D. Lambris, and Kip M. Connor. The alternative complement pathway regulates pathological angiogenesis in the retina. FASEB J. DOI: 10.1096/fj.14-251041 ; http://www.fasebj.org/content/early/2014/03/24/fj.14-251041.abstract

Related Stories

Protein responsible for 'bad' blood vessel growth discovered

July 17, 2013
The discovery of a protein that encourages blood vessel growth, and especially 'bad' blood vessels – the kind that characterise diseases as diverse as cancer, age-related macular degeneration and rheumatoid arthritis – ...

Researchers find source of new lineage of immune cells

February 12, 2014
The elusive progenitor cells that give rise to innate lymphoid cells—a recently discovered group of infection-fighting white blood cells—have been identified in fetal liver and adult bone marrow of mice, researchers from ...

Research presents new hope of early diagnosis of major cause of blindness

January 22, 2014
Research is under way to develop new techniques for detecting diabetic retinopathy at early onset with the hope of improving prevention and treatment of this major cause of blindness.

Relationship between gut bacteria, blood cell development helps immune system fight infection

March 12, 2014
The human relationship with microbial life is complicated. At almost any supermarket, you can pick up both antibacterial soap and probiotic yogurt during the same shopping trip. Although there are types of bacteria that can ...

Explainer: What is the immune system?

January 8, 2014
The immune system is an integral part of our body, keeping us safe from diseases – from the common cold to more severe illnesses such as cancer.

Recommended for you

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

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.