Report

Hopes for eye disease treatment for premature babies

The cells were found when a team led by Professor Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka were investigating improved ways of treating retinopathy of praturity (ROP), which occurs in very small, praturely born babies. They discovered the disease-fighting white blood cells – known as regulatory T cells (TREGS) – in animal models, and then boosted th to test whether they could repair damaged blood vessels in the retina.In the process, they discovered that such treatment resulted in ROP being significantly reduced.{{quote-a:r-w:450-I:2-Q:“People thought you couldn’t actually have Tregs in eye tissue because the eye, like the brain, has a barrier that stopped th from entering. No one had ever described this before.”-WHO: Professor Jennifer Wilkinson-Berka}}“People thought you couldn’t actually have Tregs in eye tissue because the eye, like the brain, has a barrier that stopped th from entering. No one had ever described this before,” Wilkinson-Berka said.Wilkinson-Berka said improving treatments for babies with ROP was increasingly important as technology improved, saving increasingly small babies.“We’re seeing what’s called a third epidic of ROP as prature babies are getting smaller and smaller,” she said.Whereas babies born weighing less than 1,500 grams have a 50–70% risk of getting ROP, those under 750 grams have a 98% chance of being affected in varying degrees.Wilkinson-Berka also suggested the research could have far-reaching implications for improving eye disease in people with diabetic retinopathy.“The same set of ideas is applicable. My hopes are that this sort of immune syst therapy can be given to patients safely,” Wilkinson-Berka said.“One of the treatments we’re investigating is a very safe thing to do. The therapies would not be a cure but would be added to current treatments to further improve th.”Research into animal models of diabetes will be conducted at Monash, while clinical studies in patients with diabetic retinopathy began this month at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital and Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA).