New tool tracks eye disease before symptoms show up

Friday, April 30, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new non-invasive tool can detect signs of eye disease at early molecular stages, before symptoms can be seen using traditional methods, say opthalmologists.

In fact, this tool even promises to detect some eye diseases so early that they may be reversed before any permanent damage can occur.

Its use may well extend to other areas of the body in the future, and this tool may also give physicians a more precise way of evaluating the effectiveness of therapies.

“Quantitative knowledge of the dynamic molecular changes in health and disease will not only advance our understanding, but also change the way medicine will be practiced in the future,” said Ali Hafezi-Moghadam, study co-author and ophthalmologist at Harvard Medical School, Boston.

To make this discovery, Hafezi-Moghadam and colleagues combined fluorescent microspheres with molecules found on the surface of immune cells.

These molecules are up-regulated early in inflammation. The scientists took this compound and combined it once more with custom-designed imaging probes.

Then they used both single and double-combined probes targeting endothelial markers in the eyes of test animals because of the eye’s unique accessibility to light-based imaging.

The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels, says a Harvard release.

Results showed a strikingly superior sensitivity of the double-conjugated probes that allowed detection of molecules that may be expressed at very low levels, which occur in many diseases.

“This tool is a total game-changer: it detects inflammatory eye disease at the molecular level before damage occurs,” said Gerald Weissmann, medical specialist and editor-in-chief of The FASEB Journal, which published these findings.

Filed under: Eye Diseases, World

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