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

Center and an investigator with the Universitys Program in Human Molecular Biology and Genetics. Li and Zhangs laboratories closely collaborated on the research, using the same animal models of AMD and diabetic retinopathy that are required for drug development. The collaboration means the time required to test the approach in people could be shortened, perhaps by years. Nonetheless, both Zhang and Li caution that getting new drugs to market still would take a number of years.

Randall J. Olson, M.D., director of the Universitys John A. Moran Eye Center and professor and chair of ophthalmology and visual sciences, called Lis finding historic.

This is a major breakthrough in an area where the advances have been minimal, Olson said. We are excited about taking this opening and moving the frontier forward with real hope for patients who have but few, often disappointing, options.

The discovery is a prime example of basic science research yielding a discovery with direct clinical applications, according to Hemin Chin, Ph.D., director of ocular genetics program at the National Eye Institute. Given that vascular eye diseases, such as age related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, are the number one cause of vision loss in the United States, the identification of new signaling pathways that prevent abnormal vessel growth and leakage in the eye represents a major scientific advancement, said Chin.

Blood vessel growth (angiogenesis) is critical in human development and as a response to injury or disease. In earlier research, Li had shown that a family of proteins, netrins, induce blood vessel and nerve growth in mice, a discovery with important ramifications for potential therapies to help people with too few blood vessels. But when the body grows new blood vessels at the wrong time or place, these blood vessels are often unstable and weak, which causes them to leak and potentially lead to diseases such as macular degenerat
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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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