Uncontrolled blood vessel growth is a key feature of many pathological conditions, including the degenerative diabetic eye disease known as diabetic retinopathy. Understanding the factors involved in the process is vital to developing treatments for the disease. In a new study, a team of researchers at Keio University, Japan, has revealed a role for the protein LIF in blood vessel growth in mice.
Specifically, mice lacking LIF were observed to have increased blood vessel growth in many regions of the body, but as this study was focused on the eye, the authors homed in on the increased blood vessel growth in the retina of the eye. Further analysis showed that mice lacking LIF developed more aberrant blood vessels in a model of retinopathy. Mechanistically, LIF was found to inhibit the proliferation of brain cells known as astrocytes as well as inhibit their production of a factor known to promote blood vessel growth, VEGF. It therefore seems that LIF is an important part of the communication between tissues and developing blood vessels, meaning that LIF and the signaling pathway it triggers might serve as a target for new treatment approaches for preventing diabetic retinopathy and other diseases that are associated with uncontrolled blood vessel growth, such as cancer.