Plugging leaky blood vessels to prevent vision loss

Toronto: Diabetic patients who often face threat of vision loss in their old age may heave a sigh of relief as researchers have now developed a new drug approach to treat retinopathy or retina degeneration associated with growth of malformed blood vessels in the eye.

The growth of malformed blood vessels that can burst is a leading cause of vision loss in many parts of the world, but the newly developed bio-engineered compound could offer a safer method to plug the leaky vessels.

Called "sticky-trap," the therapeutic shuts down tiny deformed blood vessels in the eye without affecting healthy vessels in other sites of the body.

"Sticky-trap", which can be injected into the eye, includes a binding component that attaches to the surface of cells, ensuring that it remains in place and is stable, as well as the biologically active component.

"That is important when a treatment involves injection directly into a diseased tissue," said Iacovos Michael, a post-doctoral fellow who works in the laboratory of Andras Nagy, a professor at the University of Toronto in Canada.

The researchers found the compound safe and effective when treating retinopathy in mice.

The compound is stable and lasts for long once in the eye.

Once it gets into circulation, it quickly inactivates - ensuring that it does not affect other blood vessels, tissues and organs.

Patients with diabetic retinopathy are losing vision because blood vessels in their eyes overgrow, become deformed and burst, often tearing the retina in the process.

Drugs that suppress the excess vessel formation in the eye could negatively affect healthy organs if they escape into the blood, causing kidney function problems, poor wound healing and hypertension, said Toronto university professor Andras Nagy.

Retinopathy and retina degeneration are associated with premature birth, with diabetes and with increasing age.

The study appeared in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.


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