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Improving treatments for blood vessel leakage in the eye

Project summary

VEGF receptor 2 signalling and retinal vascular leakage

Dr Turowski will study how a protein called VEGF is involved in the leakage of fluid from damaged blood vessels in the eye (called diabetic macular oedema). Findings from this research could lead to the development of more specific and safer drugs to treat vision loss associated with the complications of long-term Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. 

Background to research

Diabetic retinopathy is a leading cause of blindness among people of working age. Retinopathy can lead to diabetic macular oedema (DMO), a condition where blood vessels in the retina (the part of the eye which senses light) leak. If left untreated, fluid can build-up in the centre of the retina and can lead to vision loss.

Scientists have found that a protein called VEGF can bring on blood vessel leakage in the eye. Blocking VEGF activity can be an effective way to treat DMO in some cases. However, only around 50 percent of people with diabetes respond successfully to anti-VEGF treatments, and these can also have dangerous side effects. Therefore, we need to find better ways of treating DMO.

Research aims

Dr Turowski and his team want to understand how VEGF brings about blood vessel leakage and find new ways to stop it. They will study cells from blood vessels in the eye and look for key molecules which cause leaking. They will also study the behaviour of another protein, called VEGF 2, which is responsible for ‘talking’ to VEGF.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

This research can help us understand how and why blood vessels in the eye become leaky. From this, better and safer drugs can potentially be developed. Finding new ways to treat DMO could help to reduce the risk of vision loss in people with long-term diabetes and improve their quality of life.

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