Scientists have found that free radicals (unstable molecules that cause the death of cells as the body ages) may also cause the damage in the eyes of patients with Fuchs Endothelial Corneal Dystrophy (FECD), a hereditary disease that is one of the most common reasons for corneal transplants worldwide.
The finding, published in the November 2010 American Journal of Pathology, holds promise for early and preventative treatments for this disease, which impacts nearly four percent of the population over age 60.
"Our discovery is significant, because it gives us the first hope for slowing the progression of the disease," says Dr. Ula V. Jurkunas, the principal investigator of the study, who is a scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute and a corneal surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. "If we can identify how free radicals are involved in this and what antioxidants can fight them, we can create a regimen that can help protect the cornea," she adds. (Antioxidants are molecules such as vitamins or certain proteins that bind with and neutralize free radicals.)
FECD destroys cells in the endothelial or deepest layer of the cornea, which is the clear tissue that makes up the front portion of the eye. These endothelial cells are equipped with pumps that expel excess water from the cornea and keep it clear. Without these cells, the cornea swells and vision clouds, and, in the late stages, vision is completely blocked.
Because corneal endothelial cells do not regenerate themselves, the only effective treatment for Fuchs has been corneal transplant, in which a surgeon removes the injured layer and replaces it with the donor endothelium.
While scientists have made progress in identifying some genes that cause the disease, they have made little or no progress in defining the mechanisms at play.
As a surgeon who performs hundreds of transplants, Jurkunas began to believe that a free radical process might be part of what is happening within the Fuchs dystrophy-plagued cornea. Free radicals are unstable molecules released by the body, which destabilize other molecules through a process known as oxidization, which causes cell death. Antioxidants are known to bind with and neutralize free radicals.
To test the theory, Jurkunas and her colleagues took numerous tissue samples from patients undergoing corneal transplants and tested them for evidence of free radical oxidation and subsequent tissue damage.
In the significant majority of specimens, the scientists found that the level of antioxidants was less than normal (or down-regulated). They also found evidence of high rates of damage to the cells' DNA, which is particularly susceptible to free radicals.
According to Jurkunas, the next step is to identify the specific antioxidants that would neutralize the free radicals involved in the damage and, therefore, could prevent or block their destructive action.
What should patients do in the meantime? While no conclusions should be drawn from these early results, Jurkunas recommends that patients at risk for Fuchs eat a healthy diet rich in leafy green vegetables, such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, take multivitamins and wear UV protection outdoors.
Other scientists involved in the study are: Dr. Maya S. Bitar, Dr. Toshinari Funaki, and Dr. Behrooz Azizi, also from both Schepens Eye Research Institute and Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.
The study was conducted at Jurkunas' laboratory at Schepens Eye Research Institute. Tissue samples were donated by the surgeons and patients of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston
Schepens Eye Research Institute is an affiliate of Harvard Medical School and the largest independent eye research institute in the nation. For more information about Schepens Eye Research Institute go to Schepens.harvard.edu.
Founded in 1824, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is an independent specialty hospital, an international center for treatment and research, and a teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School. Information about Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary is available on its website at www.MassEyeAndEar.org.
GLUT5 fluorescent probe fingerprints cancer cells
20.04.2018 | Michigan Technological University
Scientists re-create brain neurons to study obesity and personalize treatment
20.04.2018 | Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy