Blocking a Blinding Protein

A protein called VEGF which is essential in building new blood vessels may be responsible for the eye problems experienced by many people with diabetes, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and CIBA Vision Corporation. Their findings were published in the February 2000 issue of the American Journal of Pathology. Retinopathy develops in people with diabetes when blood vessels in the light-sensitive retina are damaged by the disease, causing a lack of oxygen. In response, VEGF tries to remedy the situation by signaling the growth of new blood vessels. Unfortunately, these new vessels are often weak or leaky, and may worsen the condition by forming so much scar tissue that the retina may become detached as a result. The researchers believe that vision loss can be halted by blocking VEGF, either through drugs or gene therapy.

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