Investigators from the University of Surrey in the United Kingdom and the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis have found and tested compounds from a group of plants that could be used as a preventative measure for degenerative eye diseases, such as proliferative diabetic retinopathy.1

The study, which tested naturally occurring homoisoflavonoids found in the Hyacinthaceae plant family and their synthetic derivatives, focused on the abnormal growth of new blood vessel cells in the eye that are linked to certain types of blindness.

One of these types of blindness is proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes and the leading cause of blindness in working adults. Proliferative diabetic retinopathy affects approximately 28 million people across the globe and is caused by swelling in the area of the retina called the macula.2

Investigators tested these homoisoflavonoids to determine their ability to stop the growth of new blood vessels and to isolate several active compounds. According to a press release, 1 synthetic derivative in particular could potentially be used to develop future treatments.1

"It goes without saying that losing your eyesight is a devastating experience. We believe that our results hint at possible future treatments for many degenerative eye conditions and it appears that nature still has many secrets to reveal," said Dulcie Mulholland, head of department of chemistry at the University of Surrey, in a prepared statement.

Further work is continuing to synthesize more related compounds.

  1. Nature could provide the answer for blindness caused by diabetes, say experts [news release]. Guildford, Surrey, United Kingdom; April 9, 2019: University of Surrey [email].  Accessed April 12, 2019.
  2. Facts About Diabetic Eye Disease. National Eye Institute website. Accessed April 12, 2019.