News Release

August 16, 2007

Embargoed until Thursday, August 16, 5 p.m. EST

Contact: Christopher DeFrancesco, 860-679-3914

Focusing on Blood Vessels to Fight Blindness

UConn Heath Center Research Published in Prestigious Journal

FARMINGTON, CONN. – It could lead to the discovery of a way to reduce the incidence of blindness.

Timothy Hla, Ph.D., director of the Center for Vascular Biology at the University of Connecticut Health Center, has identified a molecule found in blood plasma (called sphingosine 1-phoshpate) that may hold one of the keys to vision loss.

“We studied a specific receptor that binds to sphingosine 1-phoshpate and showed it is necessary for blood vessel abnormalities that often lead to blindness in people with diabetes or age-related macular degeneration,” Hla says. “The study suggests that drugs or therapies that inhibit this receptor could be useful in preventing or treating blindness in these cases, as well as in premature infants.”

Graduate student Athanasia Skoura (of West Hartford) worked with Hla on the research. The study appears in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and is available online at

The Journal of Clinical Investigation is a free access, peer-reviewed biomedical research journal. It is published by the American Society for Clinical Investigation, an honor society of physician-scientists.

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