An experimental drug that had previously demonstrated an ability to slow the growth of liver tumors in mice, has now shown an ability to prevent diabetic retinal vascular disease.
The study results were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Two common diabetic eye conditions, proliferative diabetic retinopathy and diabetic macular edema, were the focus of the researchers of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine study.
The experimental drug, 32-134D, was found to prevent diabetic retinal vascular disease by lowering the levels of a protein known as hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF). Researchers discovered that HIF has the ability to switch particular genes, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on or off throughout the body. Elevated levels of HIF within the eye cause genes like VEGF to increase blood vessel production and leakiness in the retina, which leads to vision loss.
Researchers tested 32-124D by dosing multiple types of human retinal cell lines linked with the expression of proteins that cause blood vessels to grow and leak. The genes regulated by HIF in cells treated with 32-134D were then measured by the researchers and were found to have gone back to almost normal levels, which ceased new blood vessel production and allowed the structural integrity of the blood vessels to be maintained.
While these initial results are promising, researchers stated that further animal model studies are necessary before going ahead with clinical trials.