Dr. Maha Coucha’s publication in Vascular Pharmacology Journal

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Congratulations to Maha Coucha, B.Pharm, Ph.D., Professor in the South University School of Pharmacy, for her contributions to the research article entitled, “Increased Ephrin-B2 expression in pericytes contributes to retinal vascular death in rodents,” recently published in the Vascular Pharmacology Journal. Below you will find the abstract for Dr. Coucha’s research article:

Abstract

Aims: Diabetes-induced retinal vascular cell death aggravates diabetic retinopathy (DR) to the proliferative stage and blindness. Pericytes play a crucial role in retinal capillaries survival, stability, and angiogenesis. Ephrin-B2 is a tyrosine kinase that regulates pericytes/endothelial cells communication during angiogenesis; yet, its role in DR is still unclear. We hypothesize that diabetes increases Ephrin-B2 signaling in pericytes, which contributes to inflammation and retinal vascular cell death.

Methods: Selective inhibition of the Ephrin-B2 expression in the retinal pericytes was achieved using an intraocular injection of adeno-associated virus (AAV) with a specific pericyte promotor. Vascular death was determined by retinal trypsin digest. Pathological angiogenesis was assessed using the oxygen-induced retinopathy model in pericyte-Ephrin-B2 knockout mice, wild type, and wild type injected with AAV. Angiogenic properties, inflammatory, and apoptotic markers were measured in human retinal pericytes (HRP) grown under diabetic conditions.

Key finding: Diabetes significantly increased the expression of Ephrin-B2, inflammatory, and apoptotic markers in the diabetic retinas and HRP. These effects were prevented by silencing Ephrin-B2 in HRP. Moreover, Ephrin-B2 silencing in retinal pericytes decreased pathological angiogenesis and acellular capillaries formation in diabetic retinas.

Significance: Increased Ephrin-B2 expression in the pericytes contributed to diabetes-induced retinal inflammation and vascular death. These results identify pericytes-Ephrin-B2 as a therapeutic target for DR.