Nav: Home

Study shows how light therapy might help premature babies avoid vision problems

April 01, 2019

CINCINNATI--Scientists discovered a light-dependent molecular pathway that regulates how blood vessels develop in the eye. The findings in Nature Cell Biology suggest it may be possible to use light therapy to help premature infants whose eyes are still developing avoid vision problems, according to researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.

Called the opsin 5-dopamine pathway, the novel molecular process helps ensure 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 retinopathy of prematurity and myopia (severe near-sightedness) that can result. Myopia is becoming a more common condition in adults around the globe.

"Our study indicates 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 study is a collaboration of research institutions in the United States and Czech Republic led by Lang's team in Cincinnati. The researchers used a variety of scientific methods to study eye development and the influences of the opsin 5-dopamine pathway in postnatal mice. Lang said opsin 5 is highly conserved in the chain of species evolution, enhancing the data's potential relevance to humans.

Regression in Balance

During postnatal eye development in mice, an embryonic network of hyaloid blood vessels regresses in a process that requires precise timing in order for the mice to develop high-acuity vision.

The researchers demonstrate in their mouse models that the developing postnatal eye depends on light responses in the retina that are controlled by opsin 5, a protein that is expressed in special photoreceptor cells in the retina. Opsin 5 and the neurotransmitter dopamine--which promotes blood vessel regression--work in unison to regulate the eye's balanced vascular development.

To show what would happen without the balancing influence of opsin 5, researchers studied genetically modified mice that do not express the OPN5 in the retina. Loss of opsin 5 increased levels of dopamine in the vitreous--the clear, gel-like substance in the eye. This caused hyaloid blood vessels in the still-developing eyes to regress very quickly, hindering normal eye development.

Shedding Light on the Problem

To test the influence of light stimulation, the researchers used 380 nanometer violet colored light to activate signaling via opsin 5. This reduced dopamine levels in the eye and produced other molecular changes that helped restore proper timing cues needed for appropriately balanced vascular development.

Previous studies have suggested that violet light and dopamine may be key regulators of eye development. And although findings in the current study require additional research to become clinically relevant to humans, the data do demonstrate that balanced coordination in the opsin 5-dopamine pathway is important to healthy eye development in baby mice, and possibly in human babies.
-end-
The study's first author is Minh-Thanh T. Nguyen, PhD, until recently a research associate in the Lang laboratory. Collaborating institutions include: the University of Washington Medical School in Seattle; the Institute of Molecular Genetics and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic; the Cleveland Clinic; the Emory University School of Medicine and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.

Funding support for the research came from: the National Institutes of Health (R01GM124246, R01EY026921, P30EY001730, R01 EY027077, R01 EY027711, R01 EY022917, R01EY004864, 2T32GM063483), funds from the Goldman Chair of the Abrahamson Pediatric Eye Institute at Cincinnati Children's, a grant from BIOCEV-CZ.1.05/1.1.00/02.0109 (Z.K.). This work was supported by NIH grant 2T32GM063483, which supports the UCCOM/CCHMC Medical Scientist Training Program.

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center

Related Dopamine Articles:

How dopamine drives brain activity
Using a specialized magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sensor that can track dopamine levels, MIT neuroscientists have discovered how dopamine released deep within the brain influences distant brain regions.
Novelty speeds up learning thanks to dopamine activation
Brain scientists led by Sebastian Haesler (NERF, empowered by IMEC, KU Leuven and VIB) have identified a causal mechanism of how novel stimuli promote learning.
Evidence in mice that childhood asthma is influenced by the neurotransmitter dopamine
Neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine communicate with T cells to enhance allergic inflammation in the lungs of young mice but not older mice, researchers report Nov.
Chronic adversity dampens dopamine production
People exposed to a lifetime of psychosocial adversity may have an impaired ability to produce the dopamine levels needed for coping with acutely stressful situations.
Blocking dopamine weakens effects of cocaine
Blocking dopamine receptors in different regions of the amygdala reduces drug seeking and taking behavior with varying longevity, according to research in rats published in eNeuro.
How chronic inflammation may drive down dopamine and motivation
A new computational method will allow scientists to measure the effects of chronic inflammation on energy availability and effort-based decision-making.
Dopamine regulates sex differences in worms
Dopamine is responsible for sex-specific variations in common behaviors, finds a study of worm movements published in JNeurosci.
Dopamine conducts prefrontal cortex ensembles
New research in rodents reveals for the first time how dopamine changes the function of the brain's prefrontal cortex.
Dopamine modulates reward experiences elicited by music
New study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science reveals causal link between dopamine and human reward response to music listening.
Dopamine modulates the reward experiences elicited by music
Researchers from IDIBELL-UB, the Sant Pau Hospital and the McGill University published a new study in PNAS that shows for the first time a causal link between the dopaminergic system and enjoying music.
More Dopamine News and Dopamine Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Teaching For Better Humans 2.0
More than test scores or good grades–what do kids need for the future? This hour, TED speakers explore how to help children grow into better humans, both during and after this time of crisis. Guests include educators Richard Culatta and Liz Kleinrock, psychologist Thomas Curran, and writer Jacqueline Woodson.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#556 The Power of Friendship
It's 2020 and times are tough. Maybe some of us are learning about social distancing the hard way. Maybe we just are all a little anxious. No matter what, we could probably use a friend. But what is a friend, exactly? And why do we need them so much? This week host Bethany Brookshire speaks with Lydia Denworth, author of the new book "Friendship: The Evolution, Biology, and Extraordinary Power of Life's Fundamental Bond". This episode is hosted by Bethany Brookshire, science writer from Science News.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Space
One of the most consistent questions we get at the show is from parents who want to know which episodes are kid-friendly and which aren't. So today, we're releasing a separate feed, Radiolab for Kids. To kick it off, we're rerunning an all-time favorite episode: Space. In the 60's, space exploration was an American obsession. This hour, we chart the path from romance to increasing cynicism. We begin with Ann Druyan, widow of Carl Sagan, with a story about the Voyager expedition, true love, and a golden record that travels through space. And astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson explains the Coepernican Principle, and just how insignificant we are. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.