A novel approach to traditional drug design has led to a new drug which prevents eye scarring after glaucoma surgery. The discovery brings hope to half a million people in the UK who suffer from what is the most common cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
The approach focuses on synthetically engineering macromolecules, tailored to have defined immuno-modulatory and antiangiogenic properties, targeting several receptors simultaneously, preventing scar tissue formation.
Professor Sunil Shaunak, leader of the study explained to DrugResearcher.com: "By targeting more than one aspect of the scarring process at the same time the drugs prevent the production of scar tissue."
"During healing there is the recruitment of white blood cells in this area followed by a growth of blood vessels. The drugs target both factors, mimicking the immune response, promoting normal healing instead of producing excessive scar tissue."
Often patients which don't respond to treatment resort to surgery. This involves creating a second artificial tunnel. However, the channel can become blocked because of scarring, leading to the failure of the operation and blindness.
Glaucoma is caused by increased fluid pressure within the eye compressing the nerves, causing irreversible damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. Patients require surgery to create a new channel in the eye to drain away the excess fluid and reduce the pressure. Sufferers are mostly diabetics and the elderly.
Shaunak said: "The increase in the success rate of glaucoma surgery from 30 per cent to 80 per cent in animals treated with this drug has encouraged us to start planning clinical trials in humans."
Human trials are expected to commence in two years time. While there has been interest from pharmaceutical companies Shaunak explained they were still at the university trial stage and that it was too early to speculate.