Heart Disease Drug May Treat Vision Loss in Diabetics

Diabetic macular oedema could be reduced by the cardiovascular drug darapladib.

The cardiovascular drug darapladib may reduce vision loss in diabetic patients, researchers at Queen’s University in Ireland report.

Diabetic macular oedema (DMO) affects about 7% of diabetic patients and is among the most common causes of blindness.

The current form of treatment for DMO involves injecting a drug directly into the patient’s eye every 4 to 6 weeks. Furthermore, the drug is found to be expensive and ineffective in about half of all patients with this condition.

During the study, researchers discovered that darapladib inhibits the enzyme Lp-PLA2 that causes blood vessel leakage in the eye, resulting in the swelling of the retina and severe loss of vision.

“With our study we show that a blood lipid produced by Lp-PLA2 constitutes a novel trigger factor in diabetic macular oedema and that use of darapladib may not only constitute a cost-effective alternative to current DMO treatments but has the potential to be effective for patients that currently do not respond to standard treatment,” said researcher Patric Turowski.

This drug comes in tablet form, and has the potential to reduce the need for monthly injections while protecting a larger group of patients from vision loss.

“Diabetes-related blindness is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the blood vessels in the retina,” said researcher Alan Stitt. “We have found that an enzyme called Lp-PLA2 which metabolizes fats in the blood contributes to blood vessel damage and leakiness in the retina. The drug darapladib acts as inhibitor of Lp-PLA2, and was originally developed for cardiovascular disease. Based on our break-though we are now planning a clinical trial and if successful we could soon see an alternative, pain-free and cost effective treatment for diabetic related blindness.”