Dr Miriam Stoppard: New drug brings hope of slowing sight failure

By | July 20, 2019

As we get older our eyesight becomes vulnerable to age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and diabetic macular oedema (DMO). Both conditions will cause blindness if left untreated.

Their main feature is the excessive growth of blood vessels which can leak in the eye which clouds vision.

This is due to leakage of fluid from the abnormal blood vessels.

But now an experimental drug is bringing hope.

It may be twice as good at fighting vision loss as first thought.

The drug, labelled AXT107, works by preventing the abnormal blood vessels from leaking fluid.

This latest research leads n from previous work showing that the compound stopped the growth of abnormal vessels.

Current treatment for both ARMD and DMO isn’t pleasant with monthly injections directly into the eye to suppress new blood vessel growth and preserve what vision is still left.

I can hardly bear to imagine a needle going in my eye every four weeks.

And each injection is painful, each visit with poor eyesight is difficult, and each appointment needs careful planning.

In healthy eyes, the cells that form blood vessels are tightly bound together like Velcro to create a fluid-tight connection that prevents leakage.

In DMO, gaps form between the cells, opening up spaces big enough to allow fluids to leak into the surrounding tissue, damaging
your vision.

But when AXT107 was applied to leaking cells they began rebuilding connections so that one cell fitted snugly with another, forming a ­watertight seal.

“It was like zipping them up with a zipper,” said Dr ­Aleksander Popel, professor of biomedical engineering and oncology at Johns Hopkins University in ­Baltimore, US.

Popel said previous studies of AXT107 in animal models showed the drug lasted longer than current ­treatments by forming a clear gel of slow-releasing drug in the eye.

If proved effective in patients they might need only one or two injections in the eye per year, instead of the monthly injections needed currently.

Prof Popel feels AXT107 is a new treatment approach, and said: “In addition to potentially improving the response for patients, the longer ­duration of AXT107 may allow for less frequent dosing, thus reducing the treatment burden for patients.”

The researchers say they’re preparing to test the AXT107 for safety and efficacy in clinical trials of people with DMO next year.

This will be welcome news for patients.

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Dr Miriam

Mirror – Health