Diabetes drug could treat leading cause of blindness

May 7, 2012, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston

University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have discovered that a drug already prescribed to millions of people with diabetes could also have another important use: treating one of the world's leading causes of blindness.

In laboratory rat and cell-culture experiments, the scientists found that , which is commonly used to control in , also substantially reduced the effects of , an of the tissues just below the outer surface of the . Uveitis causes 10 to 15 percent of all cases of blindness in the United States, and is responsible for an even higher proportion of blindness globally. The only treatment now available for the disorder is steroid therapy, which has serious side effects and cannot be used long-term.

"Uveitis has various causes — the most common are infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders— but they all produce inflammation within the eye," said UTMB professor Kota V. Ramana, senior author of a paper on the study now online in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. "Metformin inhibits the process that causes that inflammation."

The scientists discovered metformin's efficacy when they tested it in rats given an endotoxin that mimicked the inflammatory effects of bacterial infection. The results showed clearly that metformin was a very effective anti-uveitis agent.

"We found that the drug is therapeutic as well as preventive — if we gave our rats the drug beforehand, they didn't develop uveitis, and if we gave it after uveitis had developed, it was therapeutic," said UTMB professor Satish Srivastava, also an author of the IOVS paper. "Metformin's strong anti-inflammatory properties make this possible."

According to the researchers, metformin works by activating an enzyme called AMPK, which in turn damps down the activity of the protein NF-kappa B. The inhibition of NF-kappa B suppresses the production of inflammatory signaling molecules — cytokines and chemokines — needed to initiate and sustain uveitis.

Because metformin is already used so widely as a therapy for diabetes, the UTMB scientists believe that it has a good chance of being rapidly adopted as an anti-uveitis drug.

"I think after a few more pre-clinical studies are done, we can get this drug to patients in a shorter time than usual," Ramana said. "Its safety is already known, so all that we need to see is its efficacy in humans."

Explore further: Medical and surgical treatments equally effective for common inflammatory condition of the eye, study finds

Related Stories

Medical and surgical treatments equally effective for common inflammatory condition of the eye, study finds

August 19, 2011
Patients with uveitis, the fifth leading cause of vision loss in the United States, treated with either systemic anti-inflammatory medicine or with a time-release implant surgically placed inside the eye experienced a similar ...

New study examines risks and benefits of the first line treatment for diabetes

April 10, 2012
Although the drug metformin is considered the gold standard in the management of type 2 diabetes, a study by a group of French researchers published in this week's PLoS Medicine suggests that the long-term benefits of this ...

Diabetes drug can prevent heart disease

March 26, 2012
The widely used diabetes medicine metformin can have protective effects on the heart, reveals a new study conducted at the Sahlgrenska Academy, at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Recommended for you

Study advances gene therapy for glaucoma

January 16, 2018
While testing genes to treat glaucoma by reducing pressure inside the eye, University of Wisconsin-Madison scientists stumbled onto a problem: They had trouble getting efficient gene delivery to the cells that act like drains ...

New study offers added hope for patients awaiting corneal transplants

January 9, 2018
New national research led by Jonathan Lass of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has found that corneal donor tissue can be safely stored for 11 days before transplantation surgery to correct eye problems ...

Diabetic blindness caused and reversed "trapped" immune cells in rodent retinas

January 3, 2018
Johns Hopkins researchers have discovered a cell signaling pathway in mice that triggers vision loss in patients with diabetic retinopathy and retinal vein occlusion – diseases characterized by the closure of blood vessels ...

Ophthalmologists increasingly dissatisfied with electronic health records

December 29, 2017
Ophthalmologists' use of electronic health records (EHR) systems for storing and accessing patients' medical histories more than doubled between 2006 and 2016, while their perceptions of financial and clinical productivity ...

Higher omega-3 fatty acid intake tied to lower glaucoma risk

December 26, 2017
(HealthDay)—Increased daily intake of ω-3 fatty acids is associated with lower odds of glaucoma, but higher levels of total polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake are associated with higher odds of developing glaucoma, ...

Protein analysis allows for treatment of eye-disease symptoms with existing drugs

December 21, 2017
Demonstrating the potential of precision health, a team led by a researcher at the Stanford University School of Medicine has matched existing drugs to errant proteins expressed by patients with a rare eye disease.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.