Hebrew University researchers discover a new method to detect bleeding retinas, which may save countless diabetics from going blind.

Diabetes sufferers generally require routine evaluations for blood leaks inside their eyes’ retinas, an underlying cause of blindness-inducing diabetic retinopathy.

In a major discovery, a team of Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers helmed by Dr. Yaakov Nahmias developed a novel early-stage method to detect diabetic retinopathy. They expect this innovation to prevent many people from losing their sight.

Dr. Nahmias’ team developed a computational method that identifies microvascular ocular regions with high leakage risks. Specifically, they found that a high risk of diabetic retinopathy is associated with an increased level of the Von Willebrand factor (vWF) protein. This discovery will permit localizing leakage so that it can be treated via laser ablation.

“The novel method developed by Dr. Nahmias will allow experts to rapidly identify and treat those micro-aneurysms that pose a high-risk of leakage, minimizing edema and saving vision,” says Yaacov Michlin, CEO of Yissum, which works with university scientists. He adds, the scientists have opened the door to targeted therapy or clinical detection using vWF. “By enabling early detection of high-risk areas, treatment of diabetic retinopathy can shift from a reactive treatment to a preventive one, not only preventing blindness but also saving millions of dollars in medical costs.”

Ranked among the top technology transfer companies in the world, Yissum has registered over 8,100 patents covering 2,300 inventions, in addition to licensing 700 different technologies. Some of Yissum’s prominent business partners include Microsoft, Intel, and Teva.

Nahmias’ discovery is expected to have an immense impact, as diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness within the western world, affecting more than 4 million people in the United States alone. It is also responsible for 5 percent of the cases of blindness worldwide and 17 percent within the western world. Treating diabetic retinopathy also costs over $1 billion annually. With diabetes on the rise globally, these figures are expected to grow. Offering a ray of hope, the new Israeli-pioneered early detection methods may prevent many people from losing their eyesight.

By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United with Israel