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New approach to treat retinal diseases that cause blindness has been suggested by studies at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

January 11, 2019 Research News

Investigators at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR), part of Main Line Health, showed that blocking the actions of a cellular protein called RhoB could limit diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration and other diseases of the retina called retinopathies that impair or reduce vision.

These types of diseases share characteristic features, namely, inappropriate growths of blood vessels (called neovascularization) in the retina. Current treatments to ablate these blood vessels are not uniformly successful, leaving many patients at risk of progressive disease and blindness.

The researchers demonstrated in preclinical studies that administration of a novel monoclonal antibody to block the action of the protein RhoB resulted in reduced blood vessel growth in retinas, providing a rationale to develop the antibody as a therapy for retinopathies.

“We’re excited about these results because they serve as proof of concept on a therapeutic target to treat eye diseases that can have a devastating impact on patients’ quality of life,” said Lisa Laury-Kleintop, PhD, associate professor at LIMR and one of the authors of the new study. “The anti-RhoB antibody we used reduced neovascularization in the retinas of the animals we studied, and thus has the potential to limit the development of retinopathy.”

This line of work dovetails with basic research studies of RhoB—research pioneered in part at LIMR—where it was discovered that this protein drives neovascularization in tumors. Surprisingly, there is a similar process of pathogenic neovascularization in retinopathies. LIMR investigators suspect an immune connection of some kind, given recent findings that RhoB blockade using a similar approach can also arrest autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

In their basic research, LIMR scientists had determined that blocking RhoB does not affect healthy cells, so the anti-RhoB treatment had few negative consequences in preclinical studies. However, when cellular stresses accumulate, as in cancer, autoimmune disease and now, as shown, in retinopathies, RhoB appears to increase the severity of these diseases—making it one of several disease-modifying proteins that LIMR scientists are investigating as potential therapeutic targets.

George Prendergast, PhD, president and CEO of LIMR, also was an investigator on the retinopathy study, as were researchers from the Lilly Research Laboratories in New York City. Their findings were published in the manuscript “RhoB antibody alters retinal vascularization in models of murine retinopathy” in Journal of Cellular Biochemistry. This study was supported by the Lankenau Medical Center Foundation and the Main Line Health system.

About Main Line Health

Founded in 1985,Main Line Health is a not-for-profit health system serving portions of Philadelphia and its western suburbs. Main Line Health’s commitment—to deliver advanced medicine to treat and cure disease while also playing an important role in prevention and disease management as well as training physicians and other health care providers—reflects our intent to keep our community and ourselves well ahead. A team of more than 10,000 employees and 2,000 physicians care for patients throughout the Main Line Health system.

At Main Line Health’s core are four of the region’s most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital—as well as one of the nation’s recognized facilities for rehabilitative medicine, Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation Hospital.

Main Line Health also includes Mirmont Treatment Center for drug and alcohol recovery; Main Line Health HomeCare & Hospice, which includes skilled home health care, hospice and home infusion services; Main Line Health Centers, primary and specialty care, lab and radiology, and other outpatient services located in Broomall, Collegeville, Concordville, Exton, King of Prussia and Newtown Square; Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, a biomedical research organization; and Main Line HealthCare,one of the region’s largest multispecialty physician networks.

Main Line Health is the recipient of numerous awards for quality care and service, including System Magnet® designation, the nation’s highest distinction for nursing excellence and the Mid-Atlantic Alliance for Performance Excellence (MAAPE) Excellence Award. Main Line Health is committed to creating an environment of diversity, respect and inclusion and has proudly embraced the American Hospital Association’s #123forEquity Pledge to Act to eliminate disparities in care. We are dedicated to advancing patient-centered care, education and research to help our community stay healthy.

About Lankenau Institute for Medical Research

Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) is a nonprofit biomedical research institute located on the campus of Lankenau Medical Center and is part of Main Line Health. Founded in 1927, LIMR’s mission is to improve human health and well-being. Faculty and staff are devoted to advancing innovative new approaches to formidable medical challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders and autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes and arthritis. LIMR’s principal investigators conduct basic, preclinical and translational research, using their findings to explore ways to improve disease detection, diagnosis, treatment and prevention. They are committed to extending the boundaries of human health through technology transfer and training of the next generation of scientists and physicians.