Change Font Size:
NEW WEAPON IN THE FIGHT AGAINST EYE DISEASE
Proteomics is a field that began only a few years ago, but is now one of the most rapidly advancing fields in medicine. Researchers at The National Retina Institute (NRI), in collaboration with scientists at George Mason University, are among the world leaders in Proteomics of the eye.
Proteomics is the complete analysis of the proteins involved in an organ, such as the eye, and the modifications of these protein components during disease processes. The field of Proteomics will outshine the field of Genomics in allowing the development of individualized treatment regimens for each and every patient. The reason is that genes carry the instructions that allow evolutionary change that occurs over generations, but proteins are the substances that define how living cells, tissues, organs and organisms function and respond to disease.
The National Retina Institute, in conjunction with researchers at George Mason University, has released findings demonstrating that the use of a new class of biomarkers called the Vitreous Diagnostic Proteome (DVP) can more accurately diagnose and treat patients suffering from diseases of the retina. The results, recently presented by Dr. Bert Glaser, Executive Director of the Institute, to the American Society of Retina Specialists, offer new hope to persons suffering from age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other vision debilitating disorders of the retina.
Recently, major advances in the treatment of these diseases have been accomplished by the development of drugs that can be injected into the eye. Yet, because macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are heterogeneous diseases affecting patients in different ways – and even eyes in the same patient differently, it has been difficult to prescribe and measure an accurately targeted treatment plan. The only tools so far have been instruments to better observe the structure of the retina and surrounding tissue. The measurement and characterization of the Vitreous Proteome developed by NRI represents a sea change in the process by actually charting the protein biomarkers in the vitreous fluid so that an exacting and individualized program of drug therapy for each patient can potentially be administered.
The sampling of the vitreous – the gel-like substance that forms the largest part of the eye – is done as a simple office procedure, barely invasive and requiring as little as 20 micro liters of fluid (less than a drop) for analysis. Since age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness among the elderly, Dr. Glaser believes that the sampling could well be a first line routine for those approaching their 60’s, and especially for those who have a family history of eye disease. It is possible that early analysis and targeted successful treatment could then take place prior to the inception of vision loss.
The breakthrough research is a product of the Institute’s commitment to the new science of proteomics, the study of the protein component within the structure of human tissue, cells and fluids. Towson (Md.) based NRI has established a Center for Ocular Proteomics, which in turn developed the highly sophisticated approach for sampling the proteome of the vitreous. The NRI program, called DVP for Diagnostic Vitreous Proteomics, is the proud recipient of a grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue this work that has raised so much interest among ophthalmologists the world over, and could substantially improve the vision prospects of the elderly, as well as patients with other ocular disease including diabetic retinopathy.