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New discovery may improve treatment of one of the world's leading causes of blindness
Date:9/28/2007

GALVESTON, Texas An inflammatory eye condition that is one of the worlds leading causes of blindness could be treated much more effectively and easily thanks to a new discovery here.

In experiments with laboratory rats, scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have developed a potential new therapy for uveitis the inflammation of the uvea, a layer of tissue that lies just below the outer surface of the eyeball and includes the iris.

The condition, which can be caused by both autoimmune and infectious diseases, is estimated to cause from 5 to 15 percent of all cases of total blindness in the United States. Although exact figures are unavailable, the researchers say uveitis causes an even higher proportion of blindness in developing countries, because of the greater incidence there of infectious diseases and more limited availability of health care.

The only thing a clinician can do now for uveitis is to treat the patient with steroids to reduce inflammation, said UTMB biochemistry and molecular biology assistant professor Kota Ramana, senior author of a paper on the discovery published in the October issue of Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science (now available online at http://www.iovs.org). But steroids have serious side effects, and you cant use them for a long period of time.

Thats not much of a problem when uveitis is produced by an infection that can be killed off in a few days with antibiotics, UTMB biochemistry and molecular biology professor and paper co-author Satish Srivastava explained. But if the source of the uveitis is an autoimmune disease like arthritis or lupus, in which the immune system mistakenly generates chronic inflammation in response to substances naturally present in the body, the lack of an alternative to steroids creates great difficulties for patients.

Ramana and the papers other authors, Srivastava and postdoctoral
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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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