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Improved treatment under development for leading causes of blindness


Research conducted by University of Queensland UQ Diamantina Institute professor Di Yu has found a potential improved treatment for two of the leading causes of blindness – age and diabetes-related eye problems. 

Yu collaborated with scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing Chaoyang Hospital to address the issue, affecting approximately 450 million people worldwide. 

“There is a high prevalence of ocular neovascular disease, with 415 million people at risk of loss of sight through diabetes, and as many as 50 million with age-related macular degeneration,” Yu said. 

“With an aging population, the number of cases of age-related macular degeneration is expected to increase as much as five-fold by 2040. 

“At the moment, ocular neovascular diseases are treated by a method that suppresses a particular growth factor for vessels, but between 40 and 60 per cent of patients do not respond well,” Yu said. 

“Those who do not respond well might exude fluids, have unresolved or new bleeding, thickening or scarring of tissue, or fail to recover functional vision. 

“In our study of a novel treatment in animals, volumes of lesions were reduced by 95 per cent.” 

The current treatment for these diseases is delivered via an injection in the eyeball. 

However, Yu and his collaborators are pioneering a more complex nanodrug which not only delivers an antibody, but simultaneously combats inflammation and identified side effects. 

“The efficacy was superb,” Yu said. 

“The new design allows the nanodrug to concentrate on lesions and deliver lasting benefits. 

“With the impressive results, further developments are now underway to translate it into a new therapy,” he said. 

“This new approach will hopefully benefit a large number of patients with age-related macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy by improving eyesight and preventing blindness.” 

This research has been published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. 

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