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Queen's scientists teaming up to cure premature baby blindness
Date:5/17/2011

n and may induce short-sightedness. What's more, it doesn't always work, meaning some babies still go blind.

Dr Brazil believes it may be possible to protect babies from ROP, and save their sight, by treating them with a special type of stem cell taken from their own umbilical cords. Dr Brazil and his colleagues Dr Michelle Hookham, Dr Reinhold Medina and the Centre Director Professor Alan Stitt, were awarded a two-year grant by Action Medical Research, to undertake this important work.

He said: "We hope our laboratory work will reveal whether vascular stem cells have the potential to repair damage to babies' eyes and save their sight. If so, it is possible that in the future vascular stem cells could be taken from a baby's own umbilical cord just after birth and then grown in the laboratory in case treatment is needed.

Taking a different approach, Dr McDonald and her team are exploring a key step in the early stages of the disease process. While laser treatment tackles stage 2 of the disease process, by stopping abnormal blood vessels from growing, by this stage the disease can already be quite severe.

Dr McDonald and her team are looking for possible new treatments which will protect the retinal blood vessels from the effect of high oxygen which occurs in stage one.

Evidence suggests that certain cofactors protect and encourage normal growth of the delicate blood vessels that supply the retina, as long as they are present in sufficient quantities. In contrast, low levels of these cofactors seem to be linked to the destruction of blood vessels. The researchers are investigating the role of specific cofactors and ways to enhance their function as a possible treatment for ROP.

Dr Denise McDonald and her colleague, Dr Tom Gardiner, were awarded a two-year research grant from Action Medical Research for the project.

Dr Alexandra Dedman, Senior Research Evaluation Manager from Action Medical Research, said
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Contact: Claire O'Callaghan
c.ocallaghan@qub.ac.uk
Queen's University Belfast
Source:Eurekalert

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