Birmingham research paves way for new anti-fibrotic glaucoma treatment

pharmafile | January 8, 2021 | News story | Medical Communications Glaucoma, University of Birmingham 

New research from the University of Birmingham has shown that a novel low molecular weight dextran-sulphate, ILB, could play a key role in treating open angle glaucoma (OAG).

OAG is a neurodegenerative disease that affects over 70 million people worldwide and causes irreversible blindness. Excessive matrix deposition (fibrosis) within the eye’s main fluid drainage site can lead to increased intraocular pressure (IOP), resulting in damage to the optic nerve.

Findings reported in npj Regenerative Medicine have shown that that ILB can normalise matrix deposition inside the eye and lower IOP in a pre-clinical model used to mimic these aspects of human glaucoma. The research paves the way for new anti-fibrotic therapies to be developed for the disease.

Scientists at the UK university focused on an inflammatory pathway that is common to several diseases, and involves Transforming Growth Factor β (TGFβ), a signalling molecule that communicates between cells and orchestrates both inflammation and fibrosis. TGFβ’s role in OAG is well known, with patients demonstrating higher levels in their aqueous humour, and laboratory studies showing that artificially increasing TGFβ within the eye can lead to fibrosis. 

The researchers found that ILB has multimodal actions across many genes that resolve inflammatory and fibrotic cellular processes. When they progressed their work into a pre-clinical experimental model of glaucoma, they found that daily subcutaneous injections of ILB significantly reduced extracellular matrix levels within the eye’s main drainage site, normalised the eye’s pressure and prevented degeneration of retinal neurons. 

The research was conducted by Dr Lisa Hill, from the Institute of Clinical Sciences, and Dr Hannah Botfield, from the Institute of Inflammation and Ageing. They said: “We are truly excited by these results, which show a way forward for a glaucoma treatment that can reverse the fibrotic process that causes the disease.”  

Darcy Jimenez

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