Their findings, available in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest a potential strategy to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a vascular eye disorder that affects nearly 2 million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness among older people.
"MicroRNAs can affect multiple pathways involved in age-related macular degeneration," said Dr. Shusheng Wang, assistant professor of ophthalmology and pharmacology and co-senior author of the study. "Therapeutic manipulation of microRNAs 23 and 27 may give us a way to treat choroidal neovascularization in patients with degenerative retinal diseases."
In the study, researchers found that silencing the microRNA cluster members miR-23 and miR-27 hindered the excessive formation of blood vessels in the back of the eye, known as choroidal neovascularization. When these blood vessels hemorrhage and leak, it creates a sudden deterioration of central vision.
MicroRNAs are tiny pieces of genetic material that can target multiple components of signaling pathways. By interacting with other protein-making molecules in cells, they help fine-tune the expression of networks of genes and control cell function.
But microRNAs also can contribute to the excessive blood vessel formation that is responsible for vascular disorders, the current UT Southwestern study shows. That's because they stimulate the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels, a process called angiogenesis, which is an important natural process in the body used for healing and reproduction.
The body usually controls angiogenesis through a precise balance of growth and inhibitory factors in healthy tissues, Dr. Wang said. When the process becomes imbalanced, however, increased angiogenesis can lead to a variety of debilitating conditions.
Previous treatments for degenerative eye disorders have focused on inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a secreted protein that stimulates blood vessel formation. VEGF has been known to be a contributing factor in vascular disease in the retina of the eye.
Anti-VEGF drugs, which are injected into the eyeball, have been used to give patients some improvement in vision. These drugs, however, have limited effectiveness in treating some forms of neovascular AMD, and also have potential side effects.
Dr. Wang said further research may show that other microRNAs might also be involved, and that targeting multiple pathways may provide benefits in the treatment of these diseases.
"We want to see if a combination of microRNAs and angiogenetic drugs have a synergetic effect on the progression of macular degeneration," Dr. Wang said.
Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular biology, was the study's other co-senior author. Other UT Southwestern researchers involved were Dr. Rafael Ufret-Vincenty, assistant professor of ophthalmology, Dr. Qinbo Zhou, postdoctoral fellow and lead author; Rachel Gallagher, research technician; and Dr. Xinyu Li, a visiting professor.
The study was supported by a startup fund from the Department of Ophthalmology and grants from the National Institutes of Health and from the Research to Prevent Blindness Foundation.
Visit http://www.utsouthwestern.org/ophth to learn more about UT Southwestern's clinical services in ophthalmology.
This news release is available on our World Wide Web home page at http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/home/news/index.html
To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via email, subscribe at www.utsouthwestern.edu/receivenews
Robin Russell | EurekAlert!
Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery
20.01.2017 | GSI Helmholtzzentrum für Schwerionenforschung GmbH
Seeking structure with metagenome sequences
20.01.2017 | DOE/Joint Genome Institute
An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
19.01.2017 | Event News
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
20.01.2017 | Awards Funding
20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
20.01.2017 | Life Sciences