Heritable influences in experimental retinopathy of prematurity [ 2007 - 2009 ]

Also known as: Genetics of eye disease affecting infants

Research Grant

[Cite as]

Researchers: Dr Helen Brereton E/Pr Douglas Coster (Participant) E/Pr Keryn Williams (Principal investigator)

Brief description Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye disease of very premature infants who require neonatal intensive care. It is a major cause of childhood blindness world-wide. Disease is caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina, at the back of the eye. Currently, management involves the repeated examination of premature infants by an eye doctor. The babies are anaesthetized for this examination. If early disease is detected, then the affected eyes are treated with a medical laser, to burn the abnormal blood vessels. This stops the growth of these vessels and can prevent the child from going blind. However, the laser treatment itself can damage the eye. Left untreated, early retinopathy of prematurity will disappear of its own accord in some babies, but because they cannot currently be distinguished from those who will develop severe disease, all babies with signs of disease are treated. Not every premature infant develops retinopathy of prematurity: an as-yet unknown genetic factor controls susceptibility to disease. We plan to investigate this genetic basis using laboratory rats. Raised under the same conditions that are used in intensive care nurseries, baby rats develop eye disease that is similar to retinopathy of prematurity. However, as with human babies, not every baby rat develops this eye disease. We have shown a heritable tendency to retinopathy in different strains of rat. We identify the genes and proteins that differ amongst rats with or without the eye disease. We predict that identification of the inherited factors for retinopathy of prematurity in rats will provide strong clues to similar factors in humans. Our ultimate goal is to develop a test which will identify those human babies who are at risk of developing blinding retinopathy of prematurity, so that treatment is not given unnecessarily. We also expect to discover new targets for treatment.

Funding Amount $AUD 272,591.71

Funding Scheme NHMRC Project Grants

Notes Standard Project Grant

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