Retinopathy is an eye complication of diabetes and can lead to blindness. Current treatments for retinopathy only address the end-stages of the disease, when the eye is already significantly damaged. Professor Curtis and his research team want to test a new drug that could slow or stop retinopathy earlier on in its development.
Background to research
Current treatments for retinopathy include laser eye surgery, or an injection into the eye containing a drug. Both of these treatments can have side effects and they don’t always work. They’re also aimed at treating the advanced stages of retinopathy, when significant damage has already taken place inside the eye.
Managing blood glucose levels can help to prevent the development or progression of retinopathy, but there are currently no other treatments.
Professor Tim Curtis has previously shown that diabetes causes a chemical called ‘FDP-lysine’ to build up inside the retina (the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye). His team has also discovered a new drug called ‘2-HDP’ that can block this FDP-lysine build-up and help the retina to work properly.
Professor Curtis and his team are exploring whether 2-HDP could treat early stage retinopathy. They will test 2-HDP in rats, to see if the drug can protect the eye from the damage caused by diabetes.
The researchers will monitor how well the retina is working using a test called an electroretinogram. This involves shining a light onto the retina to see how the cells react. They will also see if 2-HDP is able to prevent retinopathy that has already developed from progressing any further.
Potential benefit to people with diabetes
This research could lead to the development of a new treatment to slow or prevent the early stages of retinopathy. This could help to protect against devastating sight loss that people with diabetes face, and reduce the need for invasive treatments such as laser eye surgery or injections.