The potential effect of human chorionic gonadotropin on vasoproliferative disorders of the immature retina

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Abstract

Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is known to be a powerful vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-regulating hormone. It stimulates vascularization of the gravid uterus by upregulating VEGF expression. In the body, hCG activates the same receptor as luteinizing hormone (LH). Like hCG, LH is also strongly proangiogenic. Recently, it has been shown that LH/hCG receptors are present in the retina and that both LH and hCG are found in the eye. In fact, the human eye can synthesize its own hCG. We have previously shown that LH and VEGF are significantly correlated in mammalian eyes, potentially implicating LH-receptor/hCG-receptor activation in intraocular VEGF regulation. Given that elevated VEGF is associated with progression of two vasoproliferative pediatric retinal disorders, retinopathy of prematurity and retinoblastoma, our objective was to determine whether hCG may potentially affect VEGF production and pathologic retinal vascularization in vasoproliferative disorders affecting the immature retina. In this study, we used (a) oxygen-induced retinopathy mouse model (standard model for retinopathy of prematurity) and (b) Y79 retinoblastoma cells (a human cell line derived from immature retinal cells). In the oxygen-induced retinopathy model, number of preretinal nuclei (representing pathologic retinal neovascularization) significantly increases by 57% (P<0.05) in hCG-treated mice. In Y79 cells, VEGF production significantly increases by 37% (P<0.05) in hCG-treated cells. These findings suggest that hCG is potentially able to influence retinal vascularization and VEGF production and thus, the hCG receptor may potentially represent a therapeutic target for vasoproliferative retinal disorders affecting the young eye.

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