Compound Stops Diabetic Retinopathy in Experimental Systems

Researchers at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center have found evidence that a natural angiogenic inhibitor known as plasminogen kringle 5 (K5) can be used to stop diabetic retinopathy, one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Diabetic retinopathy is caused by changes in blood vessels of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. Over time, diabetic retinopathy can worsen and cause some vision loss or blindness. The researchers found that this inflammation and leakage is caused by an imbalance of two systems in the eye. To restore this balance, they delivered K5 to cells using nanoparticle technology. In rat models, the treatment stopped the leakage, blocked inflammation, and kept unwanted blood vessels from growing. “There is no good treatment for retinopathy, which is why we are so excited about this work. This opens an entirely new area for pharmaceutical companies to target,” said Dr. Jay Ma, the senior author of the study. The discovery of K5’s function in inflammation and blood vessel formation related to eye disease means scientists may now possibly be able to develop new therapies, including eye drops, to stop diabetic retinopathy, a disease which affects as many as five million Americans with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The researchers are now testing K5’s uses for cancer and age-related macular degeneration. The research results were reported online on June 2 in Diabetes. [Press release] [Diabetes abstract]
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