Blind World

Quark finds blindness gene target.

November 30, 2004.

Quark Biotech has discovered a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of ischemia-induced retinopathy, a group of diseases that are the major cause of blindness worldwide, including diabetic retinopathy, retinopathy of prematurity and retinal vein occlusion.

In a study, a gene identified by Quark, RTP801, was knocked out in an animal model of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a blinding disease that affects prematurely born babies.

The ROP animal model is a well-known model of ischemia-induced retinopathy. Due to the absence of RTP801 expression in the knock out animal model, the development of retinopathy was attenuated, thus implicating the gene in the pathogenesis of the disease.

The retinal disease that develops in the model of ROP combines many features that characterize both ROP and diabetic retinopathy, such as retinal vaso-obliteration, neovascularization and neuroretina apoptosis. The RTP801 knock out mice clearly demonstrated a significant attenuation of all these features, indicating that RTP801 may be a novel therapeutic target for treatment of these conditions.

The RTP801 gene was originally identified and cloned by Quark and shown to play an important role in the cellular mechanisms responding to hypoxia. Quark has already been granted three US patents on RTP801 and applications are pending in the US and elsewhere.

Dr Daniel Zurr, CEO of Quark Biotech, said, "Our research as well as our patent position has established the foundation of a program in diabetic retinopathy and other retinopathies. We are excited by these results and look forward to continuing our work in these important indications."

Source: Datamonitor.

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