How Light Therapy Might Prevent Vision Problems in Preterm Infants

Top Breakthrough Discovery | Published April 2019 in Nature Cell Biology

After discovering a light-dependent molecular pathway that regulates how blood vessels develop in the eye, scientists at Cincinnati Children’s suggest it may be possible to use light therapy to help preterm infants avoid life-long vision problems.

A study in mouse models reveals that normal function of the Opsin 5-dopamine pathway is needed to ensure the correct balance of blood vessel development in the eye. This process can be disrupted in medically fragile preterm infants, with significant consequences.

“Our study indicates that the Opsin 5-dopamine pathway is part of a light-dependent disease process for retinopathy of prematurity” says Richard Lang, PhD, director of the Visual Systems Group and the study’s senior author. “It raises the interesting possibility that we might be able to use light exposure to treat this disease and save the sight of thousands of premature infants.”

Minh-Thanh Nguyen, PhD, formerly a research associate in Lang’s lab, was the study’s lead author. Co-authors included Mike Iuvone, PhD, Emory University, as well as Russell Van Gelder, MD, PhD, and Ethan Buhr, PhD, from the University of Washington.

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The study:

Nguyen MT, Vemaraju S, Nayak G, Odaka Y, Buhr ED, Alonzo N, Tran U, Batie M, Upton BA, Darvas M, Kozmik Z, Rao S, Hegde RS, Iuvone PM, Van Gelder RN, Lang RA. An opsin 5-dopamine pathway mediates light-dependent vascular development in the eyeNat Cell Biol. 2019 Apr;21(4):420-429.

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