Australian scientists have developed a novel drug which could potentially be used to effectively treat patients with diabetic retinopathy; the main cause of blindness from diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that can occur in diabetic patients, even when blood sugar levels are controlled.
What Happens In Diabetic Retinopathy?
The retina is responsible for detecting light and converting it to signals sent through the optic nerve to the brain.
In diabetic retinopathy, the tiny blood vessels in the retina are damaged and can leak fluid or hemorrhage, often leading to vision loss.
Treatment options for patients with diabetic retinopathy are currently limited to laser treatment, surgery or direct injection into the eye of anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) therapy – an antibody-based treatment.
However, anti-VEGF is not always successful in patients or can result in side effects, highlighting the need for alternative therapeutic approaches.
Tackling The Problem
The key process involved in diabetic retinopathy pathology is the breakdown of the blood-retinal barrier (BRB), which is normally impermeable.
Its integrity relies on how well capillary endothelial cells are bound together by tight junctions. If the junctions are loose or damaged, the blood vessels can leak.
Working with researchers in Denmark, scientists at the Centenary Institute in Sydney, Australia have demonstrated in mouse models, how a novel drug, called CD5-2, can mend the damaged blood-retinal barrier and reduce vascular leakage.
“We believe CD5-2 could potentially be used as a stand-alone therapy to treat those patients who fail to respond to the anti-VEGF treatment,” says lead author Dr. Ka Ka Ting from the Centenary Institute.
She says the drug may work in conjunction with existing anti-VEGF treatments to extend the effectiveness of the treatment.
“With limited treatment options currently available, it is critical we develop alternative strategies for the treatment of this outcome of diabetes,” she adds.
Head of Centenary’s Vascular Biology Program, Professor Jenny Gamble, has overseen previous studies where CD5-2 has been shown to have effects on the growth of blood vessels.
“This drug has shown great promise for the treatment of several major health problems, in the eye and in the brain,” she says.
The team is trying to raise the funds to progress CD5-2 through to clinical trials.