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Technology and Health News > Thursday, March-20-2008

The protein anti-angiogenesis

Robo4, present in the cells of the blood vessel wall, may improve or prevent the consequences of eye diseases

The age-related ocular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over 65 years old, and retinopathy lead to total loss of sight in most of the patients of diabetes, about 21 million in the world. In particular, the degeneration and the destabilization of the vessel wall causes many times a loss of liquid and, consequently, severe inflammation that can lead to blindness. A new protein, named Robo4, identified in cells in the wall of blood vessels, may prevent these anomalies and help reduce or even prevent various vascular diseases related to an increase. The study, conducted by Dean Li and colleagues at the University of Utah, in the United States, was published in Nature.

The angiogenesis, the growth of blood vessels, is a critical step in the response of various diseases, including ocular degeneration. In previous studies, Li had discovered a family of proteins, netrine responsible for the growth of blood vessels in mice. In 2003, Americans in the same laboratories, found instead a protein (Robo4), which had opposed functions compared with netrine. After five years, the same group of researchers has demonstrated that Robo4, activated by another protein called Slit is capable of halting angiogenesis in mice in which they were induced ocular degeneration.

"Previous studies had focused attention on neutrine that induce angiogenesis. Robo4 is the "negative" of this process and can prevent the growth of new vessels, "said Li. This research, still in its early stages, could lead in future to the synthesis of drugs for diseases linked to uncontrolled growth of blood vessels, including cancer.

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