Skip to content

Powerful enzyme that tamps down inflammation holds promise for protecting eyes in diabetes, premature birth

October 12, 2022
Ruth and William Caldwell in the laboratory

Ruth and William Caldwell. Image credit: Mike Holahan, Augusta University.

An enzyme under study to treat certain cancers is also showing promise in reducing the significant vision damage that can result from diabetes and premature birth, scientists report.

Inflammation is considered a hallmark of cancer. It’s pervasive as well in both of these potentially blinding eye conditions, in which inadequate oxygen to the eyes prompts growth of new blood vessels to better deliver oxygen, but which instead often obstruct the vision pathway and become leaky, which causes swelling, further hindering vision.

Scientists led by Ruth Caldwell, Ph.D. and William Caldwell, Ph.D., at the Medical College of Georgia, report increasing evidence that making more of the enzyme arginase 1, or A1, available helps alleviate these unhealthy responses and interrupt a natural body response that promotes destructive ongoing, high levels of inflammation in both diabetic retinopathy and retinopathy of prematurity.

They found that when a diabetic, obese mouse that eats constantly and develops a condition similar to early stage diabetic retinopathy is given A1 three times a week for two weeks, it improves their visual acuity and enables the rodents to better distinguish degrees of darkness, like shades of grey.