Heart Drug May Prevent Diabetes-Related Blindness

Darapladib can block Lp-PLA2, which can lead to diabetes-related vision loss.

Findings from a recent study suggest the heart drug Darapladib could potentially reduce the risk of diabetes-related blindness.

Diabetic macular odema (DMO) is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, affecting approximately 7% of patients with diabetes, according to the study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers in the study found the drug can stop the Lp-PLA2 enzyme, which can cause blood vessel leakage in the eye resulting in swelling of the retina and blindness. Lp-PLA2 is elevated in patients with diabetes.

"Diabetes-related blindness is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the blood vessels in the retina. 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,” said researcher Alan Stitt, PhD. “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."

According to the researchers, the common treatment for DMO is expensive and ineffective for approximately half of patients. Researchers believe these monthly injections could be replaced with tablets to prevent vision loss.

"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,” concluded researcher Patric Turowski, PhD.