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IMAGE: Developing retina showing cone precursor cells (green) and areas of RB protein loss (red). view more 

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Investigators at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have been able to pinpoint the exact stage of development of the human retina, when cells can grow out of control and form cancer-like masses. The finding could open the door for future interventions in retinoblastoma (RB), a tumor of the retina that affects children under five years of age.

The study is a continuation of research supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute and was published online Sept. 13 in the prestigious journal PNAS, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The investigation represents the first of its kind by identifying the phase of human retinal development when specific cells – called cone precursors – may turn cancerous.

“Understanding this phase of development and what goes wrong can help us find ways to intervene and eventually prevent retinoblastoma,” said David Cobrinik, MD, PhD, of The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Although rare, retinoblastoma is the most common malignant tumor of the eye in children and can lead to devastating vision loss. CHLA is considered a world leader in the research and treatment

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