Blindness Causing Receptor Found

Researchers report they discovered what promises to be the on-off switch behind several diseases. The scientists found how the GPR91 receptor contributes to activate unchecked vascular growth that causes vision loss in common blinding diseases. These findings could also have implications for brain tissue regeneration, they say.

While investigating the molecular mechanisms that lead to vision loss, the research team uncovered that the GPR91 receptor can mediate irregular vascular growth that is responsible for some of the main causes of blindness in the industrial world: retinopathy of prematurity in infants, diabetic retinopathy in adults (vision loss or blindness that affects up to 90 percent of diabetics) or age-related macular degeneration in seniors (central vision loss).

"We found that GPR91 is a master regulator of blood vessel growth, which upon enhanced activation leads to the unchecked and anarchic proliferation of vascular networks, which is the hallmark of retinopathies. This uncontrolled overgrowth can ultimately cause the retina to detach and a person to lose their sight," says Mike Przemyslaw Sapieha, the study's lead author. "Inhibition of GPR91 has a great therapeutic potential to halt these blinding diseases", adds Sapieha.

The study also provides promise that the GPR91 receptor could preserve neurons. "Neurons are key sensors in retina oxygenation and serve as key players in the repair process of the retina," explains Sylvain Chemtob, director of the study. "Given the similarities between the retina and the brain, we can envisage applying our findings in retina to the brain," says Chemtob. "Activation of the GPR91 receptor could be beneficial in helping salvage neurons in damaged brain tissue in stroke or head injury victims."

While these investigations on GPR91 were conducted in animals, the receptor is also found in humans. Extension of the research to human clinical investigations could be in three to four years, the scientists say.; Source: University of Montreal