New research from Queen’s University Belfast and University College London indicates that a drug that was originally developed to treat cardiovascular disease has the potential to reduce diabetic macular oedema (DMO).
It is estimated that of the 422 million people affected by diabetes, approximately 7% of them suffer from this form of blindness.
The study, done in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, discovered that the drug Darapladib inhibits a specific enzyme that is found in elevated levels in people with diabetes. This enzyme causes blood vessel leakage within the eye, eventually leading to swelling of the retina and severe visual impairment.
Diabetic Macular Oedema is most commonly treated every 4-6 weeks with a drug injected directly into to the eye. This therapy is only effective for about half of all patients, and comes at a high monetary cost.
The new discovery by the Queen’s and UCL teams indicates that Darapladib, when administered as a tablet rather than an injection, holds the potential to reduce the dependency on monthly injections, while providing protection against visual impairment and blindness in a far broader group of patients suffering from diabetes.
Commenting on the study, Professor Alan Stitt, from the Centre for Experimental Medicine at Queen’s University, said, “Diabetes-related blindness is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the blood vessels in the retina. We have found that an enzyme called Lp-PLA2 which metabolizes fats in the blood contributes to blood vessel damage and leakiness in the retina.
The drug Darapladib acts as inhibitor of Lp-PLA2, and was originally developed for cardiovascular disease. Based on our break-though we are now planning a clinical trial and if successful we could soon see an alternative, pain-free and cost effective treatment for diabetic related blindness.”