ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Traffic, Dust Linked to Asthma in Kids
Climate Change Could Sting Allergy, Asthma Sufferers
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Meditation, Yoga Might Switch Off Stress Genes
Eight Spiritual Universal Principles in the Art of Practice
Birds Don't Miss a Beat
ANIMAL CARE
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
Beware of Dog Bites
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
BONES & JOINTS
Breast-feeding Might Shield Women From Rheumatoid Arthritis
A Winning Strategy to Beat Spring Sporting Injuries
B Cells Can Act Alone in Autoimmune Diseases
CANCER
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
Vitamin D May Improve Melanoma Survival
Green Tea Compound Slowed Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
CAREGIVING
Undoing the 'Big Baby' Trend
Caregivers Face Multiple Strains Tending Older Parents
Moms Who Breast-Feed Less Likely to Neglect Child
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Health Tip: Are You Anemic?
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
COSMETIC
Get Sugared!.... Its a sweet choice for hair removal
What to Do If You Have Unsightly Veins
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Gummy Bears Join Cavity Fight
Acupuncture May Ease Anxiety Over Dental Work
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
DIABETES
24 Million Americans Had Diabetes in 2007
Older Diabetics With Depression Face Higher Death Rate
Saliva Test Could Monitor Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Leafy Greens Top Risky Food List
Trans-Fat Ban In New York City Is Proving successful
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Chemicals in Carpets, Non-Stick Pans Tied to Thyroid Disease
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
Global Warming Linked to Heightened Kidney Stone Risk
EYE CARE, VISION
Time Teaches Brain to Recognize Objects
Don't Lose Sight of Halloween Safety
Brain Pressure More Likely to Cause Vision Loss in Men
FITNESS
Run for Your Life
When It Comes to Lifting, the Pros Have Your Back
Resistance Training Boosts Mobility in Knee Arthritis Patients
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Intestinal Bacteria Trigger Immune Response
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
Biomarkers May Help Measure Rate of Decline in Dementia
Be Healthy, Spend Less
Simple Holistic Approach to Fight the Common Cold
HEAD & NECK
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
Study Suggests Link Between Cell Phones and Brain Tumors
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
The Internet Is Becoming One-Stop Shopping for Health Help
HEARING
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Obese People Seem to Do Better With Heart Disease
Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease
Implanted Defibrillators Boost Long-Term Survival
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
More Medicinal Uses for Pomegranate
Swine Flu Closes Three Schools in NYC
Older Adults May Have Some Immunity to Swine Flu
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Most Depressed Teens Don't Get Treatment
Fussy Babys Could Be Out Of Your Control
Backpack Safety Should Be on Back-to-School Lists
MEN'S HEALTH
More Vitamin C May Mean Less Chance of Gout
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Whole Grains, Bran May Fight Hypertension in Men
MENTAL HEALTH
Bullying Seems to Affect Kids Years Later
Positive Brain Changes Seen After Body-Mind Meditation
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
PAIN
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Breast-Feeding Benefits Moms and Babies
Acupuncture May Relieve Acid Indigestation In Pregnancy
SENIORS
Rapid Weight Loss in Seniors Signals Higher Dementia Risk
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
Pay Attention to Signs That Say You're Too Fatigued to Drive
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
Occaisonal Dieting May Cut Breast Cancer, Study Says
Being Active an Hour a Day Puts Brakes on Weight Gain
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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