Elizabeth (Sage) Colombo, a student within the UNM School of Medicine M.D./ Ph.D. program, recently received the 2004 Physician Scientist Training Award by the American Diabetes Association for her work on the pathology and treatment aspect of new vessel growth in the eye, a complication of diabetic retinopathy.   The award includes $30,000 a year for up to three years of research.

Colombo is currently working for her PhD dissertation under the guidance of Arup Das, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, and Paul McGuire, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology.

Her research involves the study of a specific growth factor called Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF)in the pathogenesis of "angiogenesis" or new blood vessel formation as seen in diabetic retinopathy. The angiogenesis is one of the major causes of vision loss in diabetic patients. New vessels grow in the retina inside the eye leading to bleeding, and sometimes retinal detachment as a complication. Once we understand the mechanism of new vessel growth and the role of HGF in this process, we will be able to find out an alternative therapy for management of this devastating condition seen in diabetics. The current laser treatment for diabetic patients is not optimal, and has some side-effects. The new therapy targeted at the HGF molecule will be free of these side-effects, but needs to be delivered inside the eye by a special delivery system.

"We are very happy about this award given to Sage," said Das.   "A dedicated researcher, Sage will explore the role of this novel growth factor in relation to other known major growth factors and proteinase enzymes involved in this angiogenesis cascade. Our lab has been involved with the role of proteinase enzymes and different anti-proteinase drugs in proliferative retinopathy, characterized by the growth of new vessels as seen in diabetic patients. The study will be also relevant to other diseases like retinopathy of prematurity, and retinal vein occlusion where the angiogenesis takes place as a complication."

 


Contact: Cindy Foster, 272-3322