Researchers create first model for retina receptors

September 30, 2008

A team of scientists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center has created the first genetic research model for a microscopic part of the eye that when missing causes blindness. The research appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

The team led by OU scientists at Dean McGee Eye Institute also includes researchers from Harvard Medical School. The group is studying how diabetes and insulin receptors affect the eye, and in many cases cause blindness. In diabetes, the insulin receptors malfunction and scientists have yet to figure out why.

"Our hope is to test drug compounds and therapeutic agents to see if they can prolong the life of the receptor cells and either delay or prevent blindness. Therapies could include a pill or gene therapy to activate the malfunctioning receptor," said Raju Rajala, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project.

Rajala said researchers expect to have some form of therapy available within 15 years.

They are focusing on an insulin receptor in the eye's rods, which are part of the retina. The rods translate what we see into electric signals to the brain. When the receptors aren't working, blindness occurs.

To learn more about how the receptors work and how proteins and insulin play a role in their function, scientists needed a research model to test their ideas. With the new model at OU, scientists hope to find ways to significantly delay blindness or prevent it, especially in patients with diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina.
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. A healthy retina is necessary for good vision.

"We are looking for clues to understand the progression of diabetic retinopathy so we can eventually stop it," Rajala said. "We still don't understand why the receptors malfunction or what their defense mechanism is. We needed a model to understand this process and now we have one."

Source: University of Oklahoma

Explore further: Photoswitches could restore sight to blind retinas

Related Stories

Photoswitches could restore sight to blind retinas

October 31, 2006

A research center newly created by the University of California, Berkeley, and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory aims to put light-sensitive switches in the body's cells that can be flipped on and off as easily as a remote ...

Specific protein essential for healthy eyes, study finds

January 7, 2013

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in collaboration with researchers at the Salk Institute in California, have found for the first time that a specific protein is essential not only for maintaining a healthy ...

Ancient berry could fight diabetic blindness

June 5, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- The ancient Tibetan goji berry could help fight blindness caused by long-term diabetes according to studies conducted by University of Sydney researchers.

Recommended for you

Scientists ID another possible threat to orcas: pink salmon

January 19, 2019

Over the years, scientists have identified dams, pollution and vessel noise as causes of the troubling decline of the Pacific Northwest's resident killer whales. Now, they may have found a new and more surprising culprit: ...

Targeting 'hidden pocket' for treatment of stroke and seizure

January 19, 2019

The ideal drug is one that only affects the exact cells and neurons it is designed to treat, without unwanted side effects. This concept is especially important when treating the delicate and complex human brain. Now, scientists ...

Technology near for real-time TV political fact checks

January 18, 2019

A Duke University team expects to have a product available for election year that will allow television networks to offer real-time fact checks onscreen when a politician makes a questionable claim during a speech or debate.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.