News of Note—Regenerating the retina; preventing clots by blocking PCSK9; mimicking the health benefits of exercise

Coaxing regeneration of the retina

Scientists at the NIH’s National Eye Institute have discovered that they can use a transcription factor called Ascl1, combined with a common cancer drug, tamoxifen, to prompt regeneration of damaged retinas in mice. The combo works by activating genes in Müller glia—retinal cells that become neurons. The regenerated cells make functioning connections between neurons and integrate with other retinal cells that send signals to the brain. The approach, published in the journal Nature, could someday be used to treat acute eye injuries and a type of stroke called retinal arterial occlusion, the researchers believe. Release

A new role for PCSK9 inhibitors?

Researchers in Spain have discovered that the new cholesterol-lowering agents known as PCSK9 inhibitors may also reduce the risk of blood clots. The team found that PCSK9 plays a role in the activation and aggregation of platelets, which can lead to thrombosis. And platelets from patients with both diabetes and angina had twice the amount of PCSK9 as patients with one or neither of those diseases. The research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress. Release

Mimicking the positive effects of exercise

A protein in the lining of blood vessels can detect changes in blood flow during exercise and respond by allowing more blood to reach the brain and muscles, scientists at the University of Leeds have discovered. The protein is called Piezo1 and it acts by altering the electrical balance in the lining of blood vessels, thereby reducing blood flow to the stomach and intestines. The team also found that an experimental compound they call Yoda1 mimics the activity of Piezo1, suggesting the possibility of developing a drug to enhance the benefits of exercise, they believe. Release