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Nature's own medicine for vision loss: Inhibitor of angiogenesis found by biologists at The Scripps Research Institute

A potentially potent inhibitor of angiogenesis, the process whereby new blood vessels are formed from existing ones, can be found in one of the very molecules involved in the same process. This finding, made by two scientists from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), may lead to new therapies, as abnormal angiogenesis is the leading cause of vision loss in the United States.

In the current issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, two reports by collaborating authors from TSRI describe the antiangiogenesis activity of a fragment of the human protein tryptophanyl-tRNA synthetase (TrpRS). The reports are authored by Paul Schimmel, Ph.D., Ernest and Jean Hahn Professor, Chair of Molecular Biology and Chemistry, and member of The Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology and Martin Friedlander, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Chief of the Retina Service in the Division of Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery at Scripps Clinic.

"There are many potential applications [for TrpRS], ranging from blindness to cancer, that we want to pursue," says Schimmel.

Angiogenesis is a natural biological process that can sometimes go awry. Abnormal angiogenesis is the cause of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and diabetic retinopathy, diseases that afflict tens of millions of Americans and cause catastrophic vision loss in many.

Both of these eye diseases are characterized by the development of abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye. In the case of ARMD, new blood vessels grow under the retina. In diabetic retinopathy, abnormal vessels grow on top of the retina. The effect is much the same; the vessels interfere with normal structures or the transmission of light to the back of the eye, impeding vision. There is currently no effective treatment for the vast majority of these patients.

There are several antiangiogenic compounds in clinical trials. But TrpRS, says Friedlande
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Contact: Robin B. Goldsmith
rgoldsmi@scripps.edu
858-784-8134
Scripps Research Institute
2-Jan-2002


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