Research offers potential treatment for macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa
Hitching a ride into the retina on nanoparticles called dendrimers offers a new way to treat age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa. A study by investigators at Mayo Clinic, Wayne State University and Johns Hopkins Medicine shows that steroids attached to the dendrimers target the damage-causing cells associated with neuroinflammation, leaving the rest of the eye unaffected and preserving vision. The findings appear in the journal Biomaterials.
Dry age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa are caused by neuroinflammation, which progressively damages the retina and can lead to blindness. Macular degeneration is the primary cause of vision loss in older Americans, affecting more than 7 million people, according to the National Institutes of Health. Retinitis pigmentosa encompasses many genetic conditions affecting the retina and impacts 1 in 4,000 Americans, the NIH estimates.
"There is no cure for these diseases," says Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist Raymond Iezzi, M.D., a lead author of the study. "An effective treatment could offer hope to hundreds of millions of patients worldwide."
Iezzi and fellow principal author Rangaramanujam Kannan, Ph.D., an ophthalmology professor at The Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins, developed an intracellular, sustained-release drug delivery system. The research, conducted in part at Wayne State University's Kresge Eye Institute with collaboration from Wayne State's College of Engineering and Ligon Research Center of Vision, tested the dendrimer delivery system in rats that develop neuroinflammation.