Unexpected finding

Researchers have found that a small increase in transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) protects retinal blood vessels in rats


Researchers have cautioned against the use of anti-TGF-β therapies after a slight increase in the protein was found to protect retinal blood vessels of diabetic rats.

Anti-TGF-β therapies have been studied as a way of preventing damage from diabetes, but research from the Schepens Eye Research Institute suggests the protein has a protective effect in diabetic rats.

Researchers from the Schepens Eye Research Institute investigated whether increased levels of TGF-β were responsible for the development of diabetic retinopathy. Previous research had confirmed an elevated level of TGF-β in diabetic retinal blood vessels.

Senior author Dr Mara Lorenzi highlighted to OT that taking away the increase in TGF-β resulted in damage to the retinal vessels of the diabetic rat.

“We found that increased TGF-β is really defending the vessels in the retina,” she explained.

“Based on this finding, we’d now like to know if a little extra TGF-β will help protect the retinal vessels in patients with diabetes,” she added.

The study, published in The American Journal of Pathology, suggests that inhibiting the effects of TGF-β may accelerate retinopathy in diabetic patients.

Conversely, the authors conclude that identifying drugs to increase TGF-β signalling in a controlled way could prevent or delay diabetic retinopathy.