Good vision requires retinal neurons to send signals to the brain, and retinal neurons must be protected and kept in a healthy microenvironment within the eye.
The microenvironment is maintained, in part, by the blood-retinal barrier.
However, injury or chronic disease can weaken the blood-retinal barrier and increase vessel permeability.
Many eye diseases, including diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, exhibit increased permeability of blood vessels in the retina.
These leaky vessels in the central part of the eye can lead to abnormal fluid accumulation and vision loss.
Eye injections targeting a specific cytokine, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), have transformed care for these diseases; however, not all patients respond well.
In a recent study from Michigan Medicine, researchers found a new method to treat some of the most common blinding diseases.
The lead researcher of the study is David A. Antonetti, Ph.D.
In the study, the team found that inhibiting a specific molecule, atypical protein kinase C (aPKC), either genetically or using drugs, reduces increased vessel permeability and blocks inflammation.
The team says blocking a PKC may help protect vision in patients with potentially blinding eye diseases.
APKC is an interesting target both for vascular permeability and inflammation and developing aPKC inhibitors may provide a new therapeutic option for blinding eye diseases.
The finding may help patients with diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults in the United States.
It may also lead to new treatments for uveitis, a spectrum of diseases that leads to inflammation of the eye, as well as for retinal vein and artery occlusions.
The team is also studying the formation and loss of the blood-brain and blood-retinal barrier in cancer and stroke.
The work may not only benefit the millions of people with diabetes but has implications for those who might have a stroke and other brain diseases.
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