Scientists have discovered a light-dependent molecular pathway that regulates how blood vessels develop in the eye. The findings, published online on April 1, 2019 in Nature Cell Biolog, suggest it may be possible to use light therapy to help premature infants, whose eyes are still developing, avoid certain vision problems associated with premature birth, such as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) (https://nei.nih.gov/health/rop/rop) and myopia (sever near-sightedness), according to researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The article is titled “An Opsin 5–Dopamine Pathway Mediates Light-Dependent Vascular Development in the Eye.” The novel molecular process, called the opsin 5-dopamine pathway helps ensure that blood-vessel development in the eye is appropriately balanced to prepare it for visual function. The process can be thrown out of balance in medically fragile premature babies. Researchers are looking for ways to prevent or treat the eye diseases known as retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and myopia that can often result. Myopia is becoming a more common condition in adults around the globe. "Our study indicates that the opsin 5-dopamine pathway is probably part of a light-dependent disease process for conditions like myopia, which is now a worldwide epidemic," said Richard A. Lang, PhD, Director of the Visual Systems Group at Cincinnati Children's and study senior author. "It raises the interesting possibility that we might be able to use light exposure to treat conditions like retinopathy of prematurity after a premature infant is born or in people with myopia." The new study is a collaboration of research institutions in the United States and the Czech Republic that was led by Dr. Lang's team in Cincinnati.
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