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Prog Retin Eye Res. 2001 Mar;20(2):209-25.

Endothelium-dependent vasoactive modulation in the ophthalmic circulation.

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  • 1Laboratory of Ocular Pharmacology and Physiology, University Eye Clinic, Basel, Switzerland.


The vascular endothelium is strategically located between the circulating blood and the vascular smooth muscle cells. Different agonists or stimuli transported by the circulating blood can trigger the endothelium to release potent relaxing (nitric oxide, prostacyclin, endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor) or contracting factors (endothelin, cycloxygenase products). These endothelium-derived vasoactive factors can modulate blood flow locally. Heterogeneity exists from one vascular bed to the other, or even between vessels, in the agonists able to stimulate the release of endothelium-derived vasoactive factors. In the ophthalmic circulation, nitric oxide and endothelin are strong vasoactive modulators. In many vascular diseases that are of importance in ophthalmology (hypercholesterolemia, arteriosclerosis, hypertension, diabetes, vasospastic syndrome, ischemia and reperfusion, etc) the function of the endothelium can be impaired. There exist different drugs that can modulate the vasoactive function of the vascular endothelium. In other words, it appears that the vascular endothelium plays an important role in both the physiology and pathophysiology of the regulation of blood flow. The modulation of this regulatory system by different drugs might open new therapeutical approaches to treat vascular disorders in ophthalmology.

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