ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Overweight Moms More Likely to Have Asthmatic Kids
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
The Zen Way to Pain Relief
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
ANIMAL CARE
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Beware of Dog Bites
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
BONES & JOINTS
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Barefoot Lifestyle Has Its Dangers
Osteoporosis May Raise Risk for Vertigo
CANCER
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Spice Compounds May Stem Tumor Growth
CAREGIVING
When the Caregiver Becomes the Patient
Hospital Practices Influence Which Moms Will Breast-Feed
Tiniest Babies Carry Biggest Costs
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Bye, Bye Back Fat?
Smog Tougher on the Obese
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
COSMETIC
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
Mouse Study Finds Molecule That Tells Hair to Grow
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
DENTAL, ORAL
Periodontal Disease Impacts Whole Health
Holistic Dentistry-My View
An Oral Approach to Heart Disease
DIABETES
Red-Grape Compound May Improve Diabetes
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
Cinnamon Breaks Up Brain Plaques, May Hold Key to Fighting Alzheimer’s
Myrrh May Lower High Cholesterol
Western Diet Linked To Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Fertilizer Ban Makes a Difference
Controversial Chemical Lingers Longer in the Body
Climate Change Linked to Longer Pollen Seasons
EYE CARE, VISION
Cases of Age-Related Farsightedness to Soar
Blood Sugar Control Helps Diabetics Preserve Sight
Certain Diabetes Drugs May Pose Eye Risk
FITNESS
Football Can Shrink Players
Research Confirms How Valuable A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be
Eating Well And Keeping Active As You Grow Old Will Help You Stay Sharp
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
GENERAL HEALTH
Health Gains From Lowered Smoking Rates in Jeopardy
Food and Water Supply Poisoned by Perchlorate
How Weight Loss Can Help the Heart
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Combating Myths About Seasonal Allergies
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Cocoa in Chocolate May Be Good for the Heart
Brown Rice Tied to Better Heart Health in Study
Quitting Smoking Doubles Survival in Early Stage Lung Cancer
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Even Young Kids Can Learn CPR
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Family Medicine Cabinet Top Source Of Kid's Poisonings
MEN'S HEALTH
Eating Fast Until Full Triples Overweight Risk
Countdown to Hair Loss
Soy Linked to Low Sperm Count
MENTAL HEALTH
Memory Loss Help from Brain Supplement Prevagen
The 3LS Wellness Program for Reversing Chronic Symptoms and Creating Lasting Health
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Tai Chi May Help Ease Fibromyalgia
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Acupuncture May Ease Depression During Pregnancy
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Yoga's Benefits Outweigh Risks for Pregnant Women
SENIORS
Exercise Helps Reduce Falls in Young and Old
Want Better Health in the New Year, Add Exercise to Your Day
Exercise Benefits Even the Oldest Old
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Moderate Aerobics May Ease Insomnia Symptoms
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
A Brisk Pace May Keep Stroke at Bay
Add your Article

Protein Might One Day Prevent Blindness

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan. 8 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers working with mice have identified a protein that appears to prolong the lives of retinal cells in both healthy and diseased eyes.

The discovery could one day lead to treatments that would prevent blindness among people genetically predisposed to develop retinal disease, the scientists said.

The protein, known as histone deacetylase 4 (HDAC4), is naturally produced by both mice and humans and is typically involved in the regulation of bone and muscle development.

Reducing the amount of HDAC4 to below-normal levels appears to lead to premature photoreceptor cell death in healthy eyes, the study revealed. In contrast, increasing quantities of this protein to above-normal levels appears to protect the lifespan of these critical vision cells -- both in healthy mouse eyes and in those mice suffering from a genetic flaw, also present in humans, that gives rise to degenerative retinal disease.

The finding -- if replicated in people -- could ultimately lead to new interventions to prevent such disease-driven blindness, or even to the development of methods to restore lost sight to diseased retinas.

"There are some inherited genetic defects that lead to the death of the two types of photoreceptor cells in the eye that capture light, first directly killing the rod cells and then the cone cells which depend on rod cell survival," explained study author Bo Chen, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Harvard Medical School in Boston. "So, this mutation eventually leads to complete blindness."

"But what we found," Chen noted, "is that we could actually promote the survival of these genetically affected photoreceptors by introducing more of this particular protein, even though the photoreceptors themselves continue to remain genetically defective."

Chen and his colleagues report their findings in the Jan. 9 issue of Science.

The findings are based solely on a series of neural cell experiments, focused on the retinal health of live mice, that were designed to assess the impact of both under-expression and overexpression of the HDAC4 protein.

Subsequent lab work led the researchers to determine that in sufficient quantities the protein indeed displays a protective effect against eye cell death and thereby has an "essential role in neuronal survival," they wrote.

Yet despite expressing enthusiasm for his current work, Chen emphasized the ongoing nature of the effort.

"Even though the genetics are the same in mice and humans, at this stage it's really very experimental," he stressed. "And much more work needs to be done before we know this will be efficacious in humans."

Nevertheless, Dr. Robert Cykiert, a clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, described the current work as an "impressive" effort.

"Clearly a lot of people go blind from retinal diseases," he said, noting that glaucoma and macular degeneration are two serious conditions that result from retinal cell death. "And this protein they worked with appears to be what we call neuro-protective, in that it has protective benefits on both the photoreceptor layer that gets damaged in macular degeneration as well as on the ganglion cell layer which is damaged by glaucoma. So this finding could actually turn out to be a major accomplishment, affecting a lot of patients down the road."

However, Rando Allikmets, an associate professor of ophthalmology, pathology and cell biology at Columbia University in New York City, took Chen's cue in cautioning that the true measure of the current work awaits human clinical trials.

"It's a very good study, an interesting observation and a very encouraging finding that will definitely lead to an investigation of this pathway for possible therapeutic targets," he said. "But the problem is that they have identified a protein involved with very basic functions -- including muscle development and bone growth -- so it's very difficult to predict if what they did in mice can be done in humans at all and, even if it can, if it will work in the same way."

Cykiert agreed.

"Of course, it's a mouse study," he acknowledged. "So you certainly don't know if what they've found will be reproduced in patients. And in any case, it would take 10 years to develop any drugs from this that might benefit people. So, yes, it's just a first step."

More information

For more on the causes of blindness, visit the World Health Organization.



SOURCES: Bo Chen, Ph.D., postdoctoral research fellow, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School, Boston; Robert Cykiert, M.D., ophthalmologist and clinical associate professor, ophthalmology, New York University Langone Medical Center, New York City; Rando Allikmets, Ph.D., associate professor, ophthalmology, pathology and cell biology, Columbia University, New York City; Jan. 9, 2009, Science

Last Updated: Jan. 08, 2009

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