Premature birth is a complex medical condition that can lead to various health challenges for newborns, including vision impairment.
However, a recent study has shed light on a potential breakthrough in protecting the vision of premature babies.
Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia have discovered that stimulating a bile acid receptor can offer significant benefits in safeguarding the visual health of these vulnerable infants.
The study was published on the News Medical website.
This discovery creates new opportunities for enhancing neonatal care and avoiding difficulties in premature newborns' vision.
According to the study, the function of the bile acid receptor signals the growth of the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
The research focused on a specific bile acid receptor known as FXR and its effects on retinal vascularisation, which is crucial for healthy vision.
Through experiments on laboratory animals, the researchers discovered that activating the FXR receptor promoted retinal blood vessel growth and prevented abnormal vessel formation.
This finding is significant because premature infants are particularly susceptible to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a condition characterised by abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina. ROP can lead to severe visual impairments if left untreated.
"Out of all the cell types present in the retina, endothelial cells and astrocytes are the ones specifically expressing this receptor," Menaka C. Thounaojam, PhD, a vision scientist, said while speaking about FXR.
Moreover, according to Thounaojam, the study's findings offer a potential avenue for intervention to protect premature infants from ROP-related complications.
By stimulating the FXR receptor, medical professionals may be able to encourage proper retinal vascularisation and prevent the development of abnormal blood vessels.
Thounaojam also shared that further research is required to explore the precise mechanisms behind FXR activation and its effects on retinal development.
Furthermore, the vision expert believed that by understanding the signaling pathways and associated molecular processes and focusing on retinal vascularisation, this research provides valuable insights into preventing visual impairments in infants born prematurely.
Exploring novel strategies to improve the well-being of vulnerable groups, such as premature infants, is vital as medical knowledge develops.
The results of this study open the door to the creation of possible treatments that could greatly lower the risk of issues involving vision in premature infants while also enhancing their quality of life and long-term visual outcomes.
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