Research ArticleRetinopathy

Angiopoietin-1 Guides Directional Angiogenesis Through Integrin αvβ5 Signaling for Recovery of Ischemic Retinopathy

Science Translational Medicine  18 Sep 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 203, pp. 203ra127
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006666

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A Shot at Healthy Growth for Retinal Blood Vessels

Abnormalities of retinal blood vessels, such as vascular leakage and inappropriate angiogenesis, contribute to a variety of retinal diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity. Current targeted treatments for these disorders include antibodies against vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and specially designed proteins that can trap VEGF to inhibit excessive proliferation of abnormal blood vessels in the eye. Unfortunately, these treatments have multiple drawbacks in that they require repeated intraocular injections and may also interfere with the formation of healthy blood vessels in the eye.

Now, Lee and coauthors have discovered that angiopoietin-1 (Ang1), another protein involved in angiogenesis, may present a viable target for more specific and longer-lasting treatment of retinopathies. In a mouse model of oxygen-induced retinopathy, the authors showed that a loss of Ang1 led to abnormalities in retinal vasculature, whereas an increase of Ang1 in the retina not only stimulated blood vessel formation but also promoted a normalization of vascular network structure. The authors achieved these results not only by genetic overexpression of Ang1 but also by treating the mice with an injectable form of this protein. The authors also confirmed that Ang1 treatment protected retinal neurons from damage and successfully preserved their function.

Future studies will be necessary to confirm the long-term stability of Ang1-stimulated blood vessels and retinal neurons, as well as to translate these results into human patients. Nevertheless, these early findings on injectable Ang1 offer the possibility of a new and more effective treatment approach for retinopathy patients.