Restoring vision lost to retinal degeneration

September 29, 2010

Results from research performed by St Jude Children's Research Hospital has demonstrated vision lost as a result of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be restored.

Results from research performed by St Jude Children's Research Hospital has demonstrated vision lost as a result of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) may be restored.

The research has supported evidence that the Six3 gene plays a pivotal role in developing the nervous system as a key regulator of the Wnt family of signalling proteins, which can disrupt the process of retinal formation. This is an expansion of previous work by Dr Guillermo Oliver who is the senior author of the research being published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"A few years ago we determined that very early in development Six3 is required for repressing one member of the Wnt family, a gene called Wnt1, to allow proper development of the forebrain. With this new research we show that a few hours later Six3 is called on again, this time to repress a different Wnt family member, Wnt8b, so formation of the retina can begin," reported Dr Oliver.

Unlike some animals it is not possible for humans to regenerate retinal cells lost to age or illnesses. Therefore, understanding of the genes and molecular mechanisms involved in normal retinal development is key to developing stem-cell or other cell-based replacement therapies to correct vision or treat blindness.

Dr Oliver continued: "Our findings provide a molecular framework to the developmental programme leading to retina differentiation. The work may also be relevant for devising novel strategies aimed at characterizing and eventually treating different abnormalities in eye formation."

For more detailed information on this research visit the website at www.stjude.org