Touching Lives - March 2011

Saving sight in young eyes

Children born very early with a low birth weight are at high risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which is a major cause of vision loss and blindness. Advances in neonatal care mean more premature babies are surviving these days, so there has been a resurgence of this disease. 

Most ROP studies have looked at the advanced stages of the condition, but thanks to you a new project funded by Action Medical Research and led by Dr Denise McDonald is focused on finding preventative measures.
 
Evidence suggests ROP develops in two parts. First, blood vessels that supply the eye’s light-sensitive retina stop growing properly, meaning it does not get enough oxygen and nutrients. And when new vessels appear they are abnormal and damage the eyes.
 
Natural substances called cofactors may help blood vessels to grow normally as long as they are in good supply. The research group is studying particular cofactors as a possible treatment for the initial stage of ROP. As cofactors are naturally in the body, this could speed up progress towards clinical trials.