May 9, 2005
A new treatment being developed by a team of Tulane University researchers and ophthalmologists may one day halt the progression of blindness caused by age-related macular degeneration. The results of three years of intensive research into the effect of the targeted compound on rat retinas are published in a recent edition of the journal Retina.
"The way in which this drug works appears to be superior to existing treatments for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65," says co-author Gholam Peyman, professor of ophthalmology at the Tulane University School of Medicine. "This treatment ultimately could be more effective in stopping the progression of the disease as well as possibly allowing people to regain their sight."
The paper describes the new peptide-targeting approach for preventing the inflammation and growth of blood vessels in the retina, which causes the vision loss that characterizes age-related macular degeneration. Those vessels have a large number of receptors for a peptide hormone called somatostatin.
The researchers attached a cytotoxic compound to a somatostatin peptide using new linking chemistry, to carry the agent directly to the proliferating cells for release, an approach that successfully controlled cell growth in the rat's retinas. According to co-author David Coy, director of the Peptide Research Labs at Tulane University Health Sciences Center, this approach precisely targets diseased tissue and may result in fewer toxic side effects.
In addition, the compound has multiple benefits since somatostatin itself inhibits the secretion of cell growth factors that are known to promote the proliferation of those cells, Coy says.
"Furthermore, this targeting technology is the subject of extensive Tulane intellectual property which we are on the point of licensing for our Synscia, LLC start-up company, the mission of which is to clinically develop the compound and develop this targeting approach for also treating certain cancers and immunological diseases," says Coy.
He cites the company and the development of this novel treatment as an example of the kinds of products that are made possible by investment in developing local biotechnology capability.
Coy, who is a co-inventor with Joseph Fuselier on patents for the drug, estimates that the treatment may be available for trials in humans in perhaps two years, after extensive FDA-required pre-clinical testing. The article is available on-line at www.retinajournal.com
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