Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Scientists hoping to cure blindness in premature babies

Date:
May 17, 2011
Source:
Queen's University, Belfast
Summary:
Scientists are working to develop a cure to an illness that can lead to blindness in premature babies.

Scientists from the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen's University Belfast are teaming up to develop a cure to an illness that can lead to blindness in premature babies, thanks to funding from children's charity Action Medical Research.

Two teams from the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science at Queen's are taking different approaches to a condition called Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). The condition can lead to blindness in premature babies, putting the youngest, sickest and smallest babies most at risk, including over 3,000 babies who are born more than 12 weeks early each year in the UK.

ROP is caused by blood vessels in the eye growing abnormally and causing damage to the retina -- the light-sensitive inner lining of the eye. Evidence suggests it develops in two stages:

  • Stage 1. Premature babies have poorly developed lungs and need extra oxygen to help them breathe. Unfortunately the blood vessels that supply the eye's light-sensitive retina are damaged by this additional oxygen and stop growing properly, meaning the retina does not get enough nutrients.
  • Stage 2. Eventually, in response to this damage, new vessels grow, in an attempt to rescue the retina, but they are abnormal and actually damage the eye, causing vision loss.

The first team, led by Dr Denise McDonald, has the aim of tackling the disease at a very early stage, which will minimise the damaging effects of ROP.

The second team, led by Dr Derek Brazil, is investigating whether stem cells from babies' own umbilical cords might have the power to repair their damaged eyes and save their sight.

About one in ten babies with ROP develops severe disease, which threatens his or her sight. If this is detected early enough, laser treatment can save the most important part of a baby's vision -- the sharp, central vision we need to look straight ahead. However, this causes permanent loss of a baby's peripheral vision and may induce short-sightedness. What's more, it doesn't always work, meaning some babies still go blind.

Dr Brazil believes it may be possible to protect babies from ROP, and save their sight, by treating them with a special type of stem cell taken from their own umbilical cords. Dr Brazil and his colleagues Dr Michelle Hookham, Dr Reinhold Medina and the Centre Director Professor Alan Stitt, were awarded a two-year grant by Action Medical Research, to undertake this important work.

He said: "We hope our laboratory work will reveal whether vascular stem cells have the potential to repair damage to babies' eyes and save their sight. If so, it is possible that in the future vascular stem cells could be taken from a baby's own umbilical cord just after birth and then grown in the laboratory in case treatment is needed.

Taking a different approach, Dr McDonald and her team are exploring a key step in the early stages of the disease process. While laser treatment tackles stage 2 of the disease process, by stopping abnormal blood vessels from growing, by this stage the disease can already be quite severe.

Dr McDonald and her team are looking for possible new treatments which will protect the retinal blood vessels from the effect of high oxygen which occurs in stage one.

Evidence suggests that certain cofactors protect and encourage normal growth of the delicate blood vessels that supply the retina, as long as they are present in sufficient quantities. In contrast, low levels of these cofactors seem to be linked to the destruction of blood vessels. The researchers are investigating the role of specific cofactors and ways to enhance their function as a possible treatment for ROP.

Dr Denise McDonald and her colleague, Dr Tom Gardiner, were awarded a two-year research grant from Action Medical Research for the project.

Dr Alexandra Dedman, Senior Research Evaluation Manager from Action Medical Research, said: "We are delighted to be funding these two expert research teams in Belfast who both have longstanding track records, recognised internationally. Their work in this area has the potential to change the lives of babies around the world suffering from this condition."

Both Dr Brazil's and Dr McDonald's teams are based at the Centre for Vision and Vascular Science at Queen's University Belfast, which contains state-of-the art facilities and equipment. The centre has a long history of successful research into many of the leading causes of vision loss. Both projects involve collaboration with Dr Eibhlin McLoone, consultant paediatric ophthalmologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University, Belfast. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University, Belfast. "Scientists hoping to cure blindness in premature babies." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 May 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110517105146.htm>.
Queen's University, Belfast. (2011, May 17). Scientists hoping to cure blindness in premature babies. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110517105146.htm
Queen's University, Belfast. "Scientists hoping to cure blindness in premature babies." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110517105146.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Nigeria Ups Ebola Stakes on 1st Death

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Nigerian authorities have shut and quarantined a Lagos hospital where a Liberian man died of the Ebola virus, the first recorded case of the highly-infectious disease in Africa's most populous economy. David Pollard reports Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Running 5 Minutes A Day Might Add Years To Your Life

Newsy (July 29, 2014) According to a new study, just five minutes of running or jogging a day could add years to your life. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Ebola Outbreak Poses Little Threat To U.S.: CDC

Newsy (July 29, 2014) The Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses little threat to Americans, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins