Researchers at University College London (UCL) and Queen's University Belfast have found that a drug Darapladibm, which was originally developed to treat cardiovascular disease, has the ability to reduce diabetes-related blindness.
Diabetic macular oedema is one of the primary causes of blindness in the western world and occurs in nearly 7% of patients affected with diabetes.
Queen's University Belfast centre for experimental medicine professor Alan Stitt 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 metabolises fats in the blood and 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 breakthrough 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."
The most common treatment currently available for patients affected with Diabetic Macular Oedema is a drug that is directly injected into the eye every four to six weeks.
Apart from being very expensive, the therapy is not effective for about half of all patients with Diabetic Macular Oedema.
The researchers, in collaboration with British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, have discovered that Darapladib inhibits an enzyme increased in people suffering from diabetes.
The enzyme causes blood vessel leakage in the eye, thereby resulting in swelling of the retina along with a severe vision loss.
The new discovery reveals that the drug Darapladib, in the form of a tablet, has the ability to reduce the need for monthly injections and therefore provides protection against vision loss in a much wider group of patients affected with diabetes.
Image: Darapladib in form of a tablet has the ability to prevent vision loss in patients with diabetes. Photo: courtesy of UCL.