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Discovery points toward anti-inflammation treatment for blinding disease

The discovery of an inflammatory mediator key to the blinding effects of diabetic retinopathy is pointing toward a potential new treatment, Medical College of Georgia researchers said.

Interleukin-6, known to contribute to the debilitating joint inflammation of rheumatoid arthritis, also helps ignite inflammation of the retina, a first step in a disease that is the leading cause of blindness is working-age adults, MCG researchers reported online in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.

The finding has the scientists looking at whether an interleukin-6 antibody, which is showing success in treating rheumatoid arthritis, can halt inflammation in mice with diabetic retinopathy. "We expect that this neutralizing antibody can be used to treat diabetic retinopathy in the future," said Dr. Wenbo Zhang, assistant research scientist in MCG's Vascular Biology Center. Drs. Zhang and Modesto Rojas, senior postdoctoral fellow, are co-first authors on the paper.

Angiotensin II, a powerful constrictor of blood vessels, is typically associated with the kidneys where it plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure. The scientists suspect angiotensin II helps promotes wound healing and regulation of pressure within small blood vessels in the eye.

However in diabetes, angiotensin II levels increase in the eye probably in response to high glucose levels and help promote inflammation, spurring remodeling of blood vessels and tissue destruction, Dr. Rojas said. "Vascular inflammation is one of the first steps to inducing the changes in the retina."

MCG scientists have shown interleukin-6 is a needed accomplice whose previously undetectable levels in the eye also increase, said Dr. Ruth Caldwell, cell biologist a the Vascular Biology Center and the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the study's corresponding author.

With the help of interleukin-6, angiotensin II induces white blood cells to

Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia

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Discovery points toward anti-inflammation treatment for blinding disease
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