Scientists may have found a possible way to treat a debilitating eye disease, in tiny biological molecules known as microRNAs.
A team of researchers led by Dr. Shushang Wang, assistant professor of ophthalmology and pharmacology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, found that by silencing two microRNA molecules, miR-23 and miR-27, blood vessel formation decreased in the back of the eye. Excessive blood vessel formation in this location will eventually result in deteriorating central vision, a defining characteristic in macular degeneration. Macular degeneration currently affects 2 million Americans in the United States alone.
MicroRNAs are tiny pieces of genetic material similar to DNA that are complementary to messenger RNAs, molecules that aid in creating all the proteins the human body needs. Their primary role is to help regulate the expression of genes. In the case of macular degeneration, they help prevent out-of-control blood vessel formation, a condition known as angiogenesis.
These biological molecules are extremely popular in the biotech and research industry. They have been studied extensively due to their significant impact gene regulation. Scientists have exploited this helpful trait and are exploring potential treatment and life-saving strategies involving these compounds for illnesses such as cancer and macular degeneration.
Bright Future for MicroRNAs
The new study will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Dr. Wang hopes to find other microRNAs that may play significant roles in targeting macular degeneration and is already contemplating how these special biological molecules can be used in current treatment.
“We want to see if a combination of microRNAs and angiogenetic drugs have a synergetic effect on the progression of macular degeneration,” Wang says.