Published on April 8, 2009 at 1:06 PM
To do that, they injected mice with a virus that produces large quantities of soluble endoglin, a protein that would circulate, and then bind to and inhibit TGF-beta. When they examined the retinas of treated mice, the team found clear evidence that retinal blood vessels were losing their integrity-blood was not moving efficiently through the smaller vessels into the retina tissue, and fluid was leaking out of the vessels, which does not happen when the vessels are functioning properly. These defects led to the death of ganglion cells (nerve cells in the innermost part of the retina) and a loss of visual function.
According to D'Amore and Walshe, the demonstration of the role played by TGF-beta is one more piece of a very complex set of controls that keeps blood vessels and the retina healthy.
Future studies are aimed at exploring what other molecules are involved in maintaining healthy blood vessels and how these relate to the development of microvascular diseases.