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Sloppy shipping of human retina leads IU researchers to discover new treatment path for eye disease
Date:5/4/2012

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Sloppy shipping of a donated human retina to an Indiana University researcher studying a leading cause of vision loss has inadvertently helped uncover a previously undetected mechanism causing the disease. The discovery has led researchers to urge review of how millions of dollars are spent investigating the cause of a type of age-related macular degeneration called choroidal neovascularization.

Working at IU's Biocomplexity Institute, postdoctoral researcher Abbas Shirinifard had hit a brick wall trying to develop detailed computer simulations of the behaviors and interactions of the cells and membranes composing the rear of the retina and its supporting vasculature. In choroidal neovascularization (CNV), blood vessels that supply the eye with oxygen and nutrients and originate in the choroid just behind the eye abruptly break into the retina and disrupt it. Blindness can follow in a matter of months.

Two current treatments for CNV either kill the invading blood vessels with drugs injected into the eye (also damaging the retina and killing needed blood vessels as well) or laser-heat the blood vessels, which can cause damaging retinal scars. Yet with 9,000 research papers published on CNV over the past 10 years, neither treatment still addresses the underlying problems that cause the blood vessels to invade, so relapses are common and many patients still lose vision within a year or two.

A serendipitous accident in which a donated human retina from an eye bank was severely shaken during shipping inspired Shirinifard to try again with a series of new simulations. Upon examination of the eye, Shirinifard and Biocomplexity Institute senior microscopist Sherry Clendenon found that regions of the retina with invading blood vessels had separated from their underlying membrane, while regions that had stayed attached showed much less invasion, suggesting that adhesion might be an essential but overlooked mechanism in
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Contact: Steve Chaplin
stjchap@iu.edu
812-856-1896
Indiana University
Source:Eurekalert  

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