Curbing Damage

New small molecule treatments could reduce damage due to diabetic eye disease

A team led by Harvard Medical School researchers at Massachusetts Eye and Ear has identified a new therapeutic target for abnormal blood vessel growth in the retina, a hallmark of advanced diabetic eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy.
According to a report published online in Diabetes on April 11, the transcription factor RUNX1 was found in abnormal retinal blood vessels, and by inhibiting RUNX1 with a small molecule drug, the researchers achieved a 50 percent reduction of retinopathy in preclinical models. These findings pave the way for new therapies that address diabetic retinopathy and other conditions involving abnormal vessel growth within the retina, known as retinal neovascularization.

“We’re hopeful that we may have an opportunity to change the treatment paradigm for these conditions.” —Leo Kim

“Current treatments to control retinal neovascularization require injecting very large proteins, including antibodies, into the eyes of patients, as often as once a month. Our study opens the door for new modalities of treatment based on small molecules that could cross biological barriers on their own. Such a treatment could be self-administered by patients and eliminate the need for intravitreal injections,” said co-corresponding author Joseph Arboleda-Velasquez, HMS assistant professor of ophthalmology and assistant scientist at Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear.
Neovascularization is a feature of various health conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, wet age-related macular degeneration, retinopathy of prematurity and cancer. In the case of diabetic retinopathy—the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in American adults—blood vessels in the retina (the structure in the back of the eye that senses and perceives light) become damaged and leak fluid. Accumulation of fluid into the retina can lead to swelling at the center of the retina and growth of pathological blood vessels on its surface. As diabetes-related damage progresses, these vessels can leak, rupture or cause retinal detachment leading to impaired vision……..
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Source: Harvard Medical School
Image: Mass, Eye & Ear