The presence of a protein called soluble VEGF receptor-1 (sVEGFR-1) maintains optical clarity by keeping the cornea free of blood vessels, a paper published online by Nature suggests. The discovery may aid the development of drugs that block blood vessel development, which may prove useful in cancer treatment.
Jayakrishna Ambati and colleagues found that when levels of sVEGFR-1 are reduced, blood vessels begin to grow into the eye's outer surface. And the protein is lacking in some patients with aniridia, a condition in which the cornea becomes vascularized.
Only one type of organism - the manatee - is known to have blood vessels in its cornea, and is deficient in corneal sVEGFR-1. But elephants (a close relative of the manatee), mice and humans all have significant levels of the protein, suggesting that it has been conserved through evolution.
Jayakrishna Ambati (University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY, USA)
Balamurali Ambati (Medical College of Georgia, Augusta, GA, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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