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Heart drug may reduce diabetes-related blindness

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A drug originally developed to treat cardiovascular disease has the potential to reduce diabetes related blindness, according to UK researchers.

Diabetic macular oedema – a complication of diabetic retinopathy – occurs in approximately 7% of patients with diabetes

“Based on our break-though we are now planning a clinical trial”

Alan Stitt

Currently, the most common treatments for patients with the condition is an injection of a drug directly into to the eye every four to six weeks. This therapy is very expensive and not effective for about half of patients.

But researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and University College London have found the drug darapladib inhibits an enzyme which is increased in diabetes patients and causes blood vessel leakage in the eye that leads to swelling of the retina and severe vision loss.

The discovery, made in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline, demonstrates that darapladib in form of a tablet has potential to reduce the need for monthly injections and provide protection against vision loss in a much wider group of patients with diabetes.

Professor Alan Stitt, from 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 metabolises fats in the blood, contributes to blood vessel damage and leakiness in the retina,” he said.

The drug darapladib acts as inhibitor of Lp-PLA2, and was originally developed for cardiovascular disease,” said professor Stitt.

He added: “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.”

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