In a study from the University of Virginia, scientists found an unknown contributor to harmful blood vessel growth in the eye.
This could lead to new treatments for blinding macular degeneration and other common causes of vision loss.
Scientists have known that abnormal vessel overgrowth in the eye is fueled by excessive amounts of a substance called “vascular endothelial growth factor-A,” or VEGF, which plays an important role in blood vessel formation.
There are now treatments available that target VEGF to prevent vessel overgrowth, and they often provide dramatic benefits at first.
Unfortunately, these benefits can fade with time. That leaves doctors in need of better treatments to help preserve patients’ eyesight.
In the study, the team identified a new target to prevent the formation of abnormal tangles of blood vessels associated with eye conditions such as neovascular age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
They identified a key protein that determines VEGF levels. Blocking this protein in lab mice reduced their VEGF levels strongly, and it did so in a targeted way, without unwanted side effects.
The scientists noted, for example, that they observed no toxic effects on the retina, the light-sensing portion of the eye where the vessel overgrowth occurs.
In addition to identifying a promising target for the development of new treatments for vision loss, the discovery sheds important light on the fundamental mechanisms responsible for the blood vessel overgrowth that robs millions of people of their sight.
Neurovascular age-related macular degeneration alone affects more than 200 million people worldwide.
While much more research and testing will be needed before the new finding could be translated into treatment, the scientists are excited about the potential of the discovery.
If you care about eye health, please read studies about how to protect your eyes from glaucoma, and 7 habits that help prevent vision loss in older people.
For more information about eye health, please see recent studies about how to protect your eyes from diabetes, and results showing that vitamin B3 supplement may harm eye health.
The study was conducted by Jayakrishna Ambati et al and published in Signal Transduction and Targeted Therapy.
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