Researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago have developed a promising compound that may provide a non-invasive alternative for treating wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that often leads to blindness. Unlike current treatments requiring eye injections, this innovative drug can be administered through eyedrops. The breakthrough offers a more patient-friendly approach to combating vision loss caused by uncontrolled blood vessel growth and leakage in the back of the eye.
Wet age-related macular degeneration is a debilitating eye condition characterized by the unchecked growth and leakage of blood vessels in the retina. It can result in severe vision impairment and blindness. The University of Illinois Chicago, led by researcher Yulia Komarova, has introduced a small-molecule inhibitor that shows promise in reversing AMD-related damage and stimulating regenerative processes.
This breakthrough is appealing because the drug can be delivered via eyedrops, eliminating the need for invasive eye injections. Komarova, an associate professor of pharmacology at UIC, emphasized the patient-friendly nature of this approach, stating, “The idea was to develop something that can be more patient-friendly and doesn’t require a visit to the doctor’s office.”
The compound developed by Komarova’s team targets a specific protein called End Binding-3 (EB3), found in endothelial cells that line the interior of blood vessels. Using advanced computational drug design techniques, they created a small inhibitor suitable for external delivery through eyedrops.
Animal studies involving wet AMD models demonstrated that administering the inhibitor twice daily significantly reduced eye damage within a span of 2 to 3 weeks. Further investigation revealed that the inhibitor’s effectiveness stemmed from its ability to reverse age-related genetic modifications. Aging contributes to inflammation and hypoxia in the eye, leading to changes in gene expression associated with wet AMD symptoms. Komarova and her colleagues found that their EB3 inhibitor could reverse these epigenetic changes, restoring gene expression to a healthy, normal state.
Komarova explained, “We reduce the effects of the stressor on endothelial cells and we improve regenerative processes, accelerating healing. That can be tremendous for the function of the cells.”
The potential of this innovative compound extends beyond wet AMD treatment. Given that blood vessel leakage and hypoxic stress underlie various medical conditions, Komarova’s team is exploring the inhibitor’s applicability in models of acute lung injury, diabetic retinopathy, stroke, heart disease, and even age-related brain changes. Additionally, they are investigating the possibility of delivering the drug more effectively through an implantable lens, akin to a contact lens.
In essence, the development of an eyedrop-delivered inhibitor provides hope for a less invasive and more accessible treatment for wet AMD. This breakthrough can potentially revolutionize how we address not only AMD but also various other medical conditions driven by blood vessel-related issues.
The study was published in the journal Cell Reports Medicine.
Source: University of Illinois Chicago