"This discovery has significant implications for developing drugs that activate Robo4 to treat AMD and diabetic retinopathy," Kang Zhang, MD, PhD, University of Utah associate professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences, says in a news release.
Activating the Robo4 gene shored up leaky blood vessels and curbed the development of new blood vessels, Zhang's team found in a series of experiments in test tubes and mice.
To do that, the Robo4 gene countered a chemical called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which signals the creation of new blood vessels. In other words, Robo4 prevented VEGF from issuing the "let's make some blood vessels" order.
Those experiments "may have broad therapeutic potential," the researchers write in the March 16 advance online edition of Nature Medicine.