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Blood pressure drug offers hope for eye disease

image-tools (77)Researchers have long suspected that drugs based on prostacyclin, a natural hormone found in the lining of blood vessels that helps them open, may protect cells from injury and damage. Now, Research Fellow Dr Hitesh Peshavariya, in CERA’s Cytoprotection Pharmacology Unit, has found how it protects vascular cells and promotes blood vessel repair and growth.

Dr Peshavariya presented these findings at the 19th Annual Meeting of the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine in San Diego, US, last month. His presentation, “Prostacyclin signalling promotes cytoprotection and angiogenesis via up-regulation of NADPH oxidase 4” was selected as one of the top three abstracts (out of approximately 500) for the conference. Dr Peshavariya went on to receive a prestigious Young Investigator Award at the meeting.

Since joining CERA at the end of last year, Dr Peshavariya has enjoyed considerable success and achieved impressive research milestones. His previous work at the O’Brien Institute looked at protecting the blood vessels after cardiovascular disease. Now, he is exploring the role of cytoprotection pharmacology in eye disease, in particular glaucoma and vascular disease of the retina that leads to vision loss.

Apart from its effects on blood vessels, prostacyclin is known to be neuroprotective, meaning it protects nerve cells such as those in the retina that allow us to see. Dr Peshavariya is also interested to see if it may have the ability to lower intraocular pressure and protect the optic nerve.

Dr Peshavariya is supported by a fellowship from the Heart Foundation and his work was made possible through a Heart Foundation Project Grant. Recently, he was awarded a New Investigator Grant from the Ophthalmic Research Institute of Australia (ORIA) and another Heart Foundation Grant-in-Aid. Dr Peshavariya received a Harold Mitchell Foundation Travel Grant to subsidise his attendance at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine in San Diego.