Finding a protective mechanism for retinal cells could save sight

November 16, 2009

Determining what triggers the death of retinal cells, called photoreceptors, could hold the key to stopping blinding disorders caused by a wide range of eye diseases, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in the November journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

Several blinding disorders are known to cause the breakdown of photoreceptors. Caroline Zeiss, associate professor of comparative medicine and ophthalmology at Yale School of Medicine, and her colleagues sought to identify a mechanism in photoreceptors that could be targeted to prolong their survival. Using preserved animal and human retinal tissue, they studied different diseases with a range of genetic mutations that caused photoreceptor death, such as age-related macular degeneration and retinal pigmentosa.

In the diseases Zeiss and her team studied, photoreceptors died from a variety of causes, but the team found that all of the diseases had one common element--activation of a family of molecules called CREB1/ATF1. It was unclear, however, whether CREB1/ATF1 contributed to photoreceptor loss, or was an attempt by photoreceptors to delay their death. To differentiate between these two possibilities, the team examined CREB1/ATF1 in retinas treated with a drug known to preserve photoreceptors. Protected photoreceptors expressed much higher amounts than unprotected retinas, suggesting that CREB1/ATF1 was part of the protective mechanism.

"Not only did we find that the drug activated the novel CREB1/ATF1 photoreceptor pathway, but we found that this activation was caused by stress," said Zeiss. "This suggests that CREB/ATF1 may be an innate protective response that could be used to achieve broad spectrum preservation of the retina."

"This is the first time that any protective signal within photoreceptors has been identified across such a broad range of eye diseases," Zeiss added. "By finding a common way in which photoreceptors react to stress, it may be possible to develop new therapies to preserve vision."

Zeiss said the next step in the research is to try to identify drug targets that could activate the CREB1/ATF1 pathway. The team could potentially screen thousands of compounds and look at their ability to turn on CREB1/ATF1 in retinal tissue.
-end-
Other authors on the study included William A. Beltran, Heather G. Allore, Elizabeth Johnson, Virginia Towle, Weng Tao, Gregory M. Acland and Gustavo D. Aguirre.

Citation: Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, November 2009, Vol. 50

Yale University

Related Ophthalmology Articles from Brightsurf:

Practice patterns, responsiveness to common ocular complaints among ophthalmology centers during COVID-19
Practice patterns for common ocular complaints during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic are reported in this observational study among comprehensive U.S. ophthalmology practices.

Detection of COVID-19 viral material on environmental surfaces of an ophthalmology exam room
This study investigates the presence of SARS-CoV-2 on the environmental surfaces of an ophthalmology examination room after visits by patients who were asymptomatic and passed COVID-19 triage.

Ophthalmology after COVID-19
Changes in ophthalmology practices after the COVID-19 pandemic are discussed in this article.

Perspectives on COVID-19 control measures for ophthalmology clinics
This article describes treatment initiatives being undertaken for novel coronavirus 2019 at an ophthalmology center in Singapore.

Low risk of coronavirus spreading through tears
Study published today in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology found no virus in tears of COVID-19 infected patients.

Low-cost, portable system takes OCT beyond ophthalmology
Researchers have developed a way to perform optical coherence tomography (OCT) in hard-to-reach areas of the body such as joints.

Relying on Dr. Google to diagnose eye problems may be dangerous to your health
A study examining the diagnoses generated by WebMD Symptom Checker showed the online tool was correct only 26 percent of the time.

American Academy of Ophthalmology reiterates long-standing guidance on LASIK education
The American Academy of Ophthalmology, the world's leading professional association of eye physicians and surgeons, today reiterated its long-standing guidance for patients considering LASIK vision correction surgery.

Burnout, depression can affect ophthalmology residents, study finds
A Brown University undergraduate led a JAMA Ophthalmology study showing that many ophthalmology residents face burnout and are often unable to participate in wellness initiatives, which has adverse consequences for both residents and patients.

Malcolm Gladwell published in the Journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology
In his best sellers 'The Tipping Point,' 'Blink' and 'Outliers,' Malcolm Gladwell writes about the unexpected implications of scientific research, urging readers to think different.

Read More: Ophthalmology News and Ophthalmology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.