A New Target For Retinopathy Treatment Discovered

A team of researchers found a new therapeutic target for neovascularization, or abnormal blood vessel growth on the retina. Neovascularization is characteristic of the eye disease called proliferative diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the retina become damaged and leak fluid. A build up of fluid in the most sensitive part of the retina can lead to macular edema and the growth of abnormal blood vessels on the retinal surface. These irregular blood vessels can impair vision by rupturing, leaking, or causing retinal detachment.

The new therapeutic target for neovascularization is RUNX1, a protein that transcribes genetic information, and is found in the abnormal blood vessels. When RUNX1 was inhibited using a drug molecule, the researchers noted a 50 percent reduction of abnormal blood vessels in preclinical models.

Laser treatments, and eye injections targeting VGEF (a growth factor) are the current standard, and generally successful therapies used for neovascularization. However, the investigators think RUNX1 may provide an avenue for targeting some cases of retinopathy sooner in the disease process, maybe before abnormal vessels develop.

Future research will explore the relationship between VEGF and RUNX1, and determine whether the RUNX1 inhibiting drug can be given in a topical eye drop, instead of by injection.

“We're hopeful that we may have an opportunity to change the treatment paradigm for these conditions,” said study author Leo A. Kim, M.D., Ph.D., retina surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, and Asst. Prof. of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “Instead of treating patients after these abnormal blood vessels form in the eye, we may be able to give patients eye drops or systemic medications that prevent their development in the first place.”

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Shiranai

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