A few drops could cure one of the causes of blindness (and other diseases)

One of the diseases that can cause blindness is the retinal vein occlusion, which consists of blocking the main vein of the eyeball. Now, scientists from Columbia University (United States) have developed a new treatment that can end this ailment.

Obstruction of the main vein of the eyeball prevents it from draining properly and that causes damage to the retina that can lead to vision loss and blindness. This disease, which affects millions of adultss around the world each year, it is often the result of blood clots that cause blood and other fluids to leak into the retina, where they damage photoreceptor cells, which are crucial for detecting and responding to light. To date, current treatments to alleviate the disease include multiple injections of drugs directly into the eye, which is not only uncomfortable and painful but, in many cases, does not prevent vision loss.

Given this, researchers at Columbia University have been working on potential solutions in mice and, recently, discovered the important role of an enzyme called caspase-9. It plays a definitive role in programmed cell death, a process by which damaged or unnecessary cells are marked for destruction, so that they can be removed from the body so that fresh, healthy cells take their place. Through their experiments on mice, the researchers found that when the retinal vein occlusion takes hold and damages the blood vessels, caspase 9 activity spirals out of control and injures the retina.

Goodbye injections

So the team experimented with a new type of therapy, in which a caspase 9 inhibitor highly selective was added in eye drops that were administered to the mice. This topical treatment had the effect of buffering caspase 9 activity and protecting retinal function, reducing swelling, increasing blood flow and preventing damage to the all-important photoreceptor cells.

It could lead to treatments for other diseases caused by overstimulation of this enzyme, such as stroke and diabetic macular edema.

"We believe that these eye drops can offer various advantages about existing therapies, "he explains Carol M. Troy, from Columbia University and who led the research. "Patients could administer the medication themselves and they would not have to receive a series of injections. In addition, our eye drops target a different path of retinal injury and therefore may help patients who are not responding to current therapy. "

Encouraged by these promising results in mice, scientists are about to begin phase 1 of human clinical trials. They also hope that targeting caspase 9 in this way could lead to new treatments for other diseases caused by their overstimulation, such as stroke and the diabetic macular edema, another cause of blindness. "Vascular dysfunction is at the heart of many chronic neurological and retinal disorders, because the high energy demands on the brain and eye make these tissues exceptionally vulnerable to interruption of blood supply"he concludes Maria Avrutsky, another of the authors in statements collected by New Atlas.