New eye drop may prevent vision loss for RVO patients

Posted: Monday 06 July 2020

Scientists in the United States have developed a new eye drop, which they believe may prevent vision loss after a retinal vein occlusion (RVO).

The study, published in Nature Communications, saw researchers at Columbia University Irving Medical Center conducting early-stage trials of the drops in mice. The scientists say that initial indications have shown the drops could be more effective than existing drugs.

RVO is a blockage of a retinal vein and a common cause of sudden painless reduction in vision in people over 60. The blockage causes blood and other fluids to leak into the retina, leading to damage that reduces vision. At present, treatment to improve or stabilise RVO is given in the form of Anti-VEGF injections (of Eylea or Lucentis), steroid implants (Ozurdex) injected into the eye, or laser treatment. Up to 55 per cent of patients treated by injection show improvements in vision, with up to 30 per cent benefiting from implants, while between 20-30 per cent show no improvement.

The new drops work by targeting an enzyme known as Caspase-9, which plays a vital role in nervous system development, and is also thought to be instrumental in eliminating damaged or excess cells. The scientists found that, when blood vessels were injured by RVO, Caspase-9 became uncontrollable and caused retinal damage. After applying the drops, the mice showed reduced swelling, improved blood flow, and decreased neuronal damage in the retina.

The study will now move forward to a phase one clinical trial in people. The researchers will also be investigating whether the same technique can be used to effectively treat other conditions, including diabetic macular oedema.

Geraldine Hoad, Macular Society research manager, said: “There is only one way to beat macular disease once and for all, and that is by finding a cure through research.

“Although there is still a long way to go before these drops could potentially be used to treat people with RVO or other forms of sight loss, it’s always encouraging to see prospective new treatments reaching the phase one trial stage.

“We’ll be continuing to monitor the progress of this study with great interest.”

There are a number of studies looking at using eye drops to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Find out more about how the eye drops work.