April 1, 2002

The research team of Thomas Yorio, PhD, dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and professor in pharmacology and neuroscience, is examining the role of the protein endothelin in the eye.

Endothelin is usually linked to cardiovascular disease and hypertension, but health science center researchers have found that certain eye tissues can make it, too, and that the protein produces some important

actions in the eye that are unrelated to the vascular system.

â??We are now looking at the role of endothelin in glaucoma,â? Dr. Yorio said. â??Based on our findings, weâ??ve filed a patent for a new type of drug that could treat glaucoma.â?

The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health has funded the research since 1998. The NIH/NEI has recently awarded Dr. Yorio another $1,278,000 in funding for the project. Co-investigators are Ganesh Prasanna, PhD, and Raghu Krishnamoorthy, PhD, both research assistant professors in pharmacology and neuroscience.

A grant from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Advanced Research Program provided seed funding for this research. This allowed the research team to collect preliminary data needed to successfully compete for the NIH/NEI grant.

The research team has received additional funding from Texasâ?? Advanced Technology Program to examine compounds that will prevent the production of endothelin, which may protect the optic nerve from damage.

Dr. Yorio credits graduate student Martha Stokely, who works in his laboratory, with the discovery that endothelin can produce pathological effects on the optic nerve. Using a model she developed, the research team was able to secure funds from a pharmaceutical company to study the neuroprotective actions of one of the companyâ??s drugs on the system.

â??This could have implications for treatment of a number of neurodegenerative diseases besides glaucoma,â? Yorio said.


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