A new study suggests that eye drops developed by Columbia University researchers could be a more effective–and comfortable–therapy for a common eye disease currently treated with injections into the eye.
Retinal vein occlusion (RVO), an eye disease that affects up to 2% of people over age 40, occurs when a vein in the eye’s retina becomes blocked, leading to swelling in the eye, inflammation, damage to the retina, and vision loss.
Standard therapy involves injecting into the eye a vascular endothelial growth factor inhibitor (anti-VEGF) that reduces swelling. The therapy can improve vision but patients with significant retinal damage due to impaired blood flow often have poor outcomes.
The study found that an experimental eye drop treatment was twice as effective as the standard injection therapy at reducing swelling and improving blood flow within the retina of mice with RVO. The eye drops also prevented neurons (photoreceptors) in the retina from deteriorating and preserved visual function over time, whereas the standard injections had no effect on either.
The eye drops contain an experimental drug that blocks caspase-9, an enzyme that triggers cell death. Future studies are aimed at preparing to test the eye drops in human clinical trials and identifying additional therapeutic targets.