Joslin discovers protein that causes blood vessel leakage and swelling with diabetic retinopathy

BOSTON -- January 29, 2007 -- Although health professionals have had success in treating diabetic retinopathy, two forms of the disease -- proliferative diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema -- still are the leading causes of vision loss and blindness among working age adults in the developed world. Now a Joslin Diabetes Center-led team of investigators has compiled the most complete inventory yet available of the proteins present in a part of the human eye known as the vitreous and has identified a group of proteins that may play critical roles in causing blood vessel leakage in the eyes of people with this common form of diabetic eye disease.

In the new study, published in the Jan. 28 online edition of the journal Nature Medicine, lead investigator Edward Feener, Ph.D., and his team also found that one of these molecules causes the leakage of retinal blood vessels, which contributes to the retinal swelling (diabetic macular edema or DME) that is often associated with advanced diabetic retinopathy. These findings suggest potential new therapeutic targets for the treatment of diabetic retinopathy and DME and also could provide new opportunities for treating cerebral swelling caused by head injury, stroke and other conditions.

"By analyzing the protein composition in the human vitreous (the gel fluid that fills the cavity of the eye between the lens and the retina), we have identified a new group of molecules that may improve our understanding of the disease processes that contribute to diabetic retinopathy. By studying the actions of these proteins in both the retina and the brain, we have shown that our findings may have broad relevance for neurovascular leakage and swelling," said Dr. Feener, Investigator in Joslin's Section on Vascular Cell Biology, Director of Joslin's Proteomics Core, which hosted the study, and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

The work was funded by grants from the Juvenile

Contact: Marjorie Dwyer
Joslin Diabetes Center

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