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Blood vessel protein reverses macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy in mice
Date:3/16/2008

SALT LAKE CITY Two major eye diseases and leading causes of blindnessage-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathycan be reversed or even prevented by drugs that activate a protein found in blood vessel cells, researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine and several other institutions have announced in a new study.

Damage from both diseases was prevented and even reversed when the protein, Robo4, was activated in mice models that simulate age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy, according to Dean Y. Li, M.D., Ph.D., senior author of the study published March 16 in Nature Medicine online.

Robo4 treated and prevented the diseases by inhibiting abnormal blood vessel growth and by stabilizing blood vessels to prevent leakage. Abnormal blood vessel growth and leakage are two primary factors in both age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy. But the studys ramifications go beyond eye diseases.

Serious infections such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), for example, kill people when an infection destabilizes blood vessels, allowing fluids to leak into the lungs. Tumors hijack blood vessel growth to feed on nutrients and grow. Although this study did not prove Robo4 would treat those diseases, Li believes it merits investigation.

Many diseases are caused by injury or inflammation destabilizing blood vessels and causing them to leak fluid into adjacent tissues as well, said Li, professor of internal medicine and an investigator with the Universitys Program in Human Molecular Biology and Genetics. We found a natural pathway the Robo4 pathway that counterattacks this by stabilizing blood vessels.

This discovery has significant implications for developing drugs that activate Robo4 to treat AMD and diabetic retinopathy, said Kang Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Utahs John A. Moran Eye
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Contact: Chris Nelson
christopher.nelson@hsc.utah.edu
801-581-7387
University of Utah Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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