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New Drug Helps The Blind See

July 26, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — A clinical trial led by Newcastle University shows that the drug, idebenone improved the vision and perception of color in patients with Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy (LHON). The inherited condition means patients, who can see normally, lose the sight in one eye then within 3 to 6 months lose the sight in their other eye.

In some severely affected patients such as those who were unable to read any letters on the chart, the treatment with idebenone resulted in a marked improvement in their vision. In nine patients (12 eyes) out of 36 patients (61 eyes) taking idebenone, vision improved to the extent that patients were able to read at least one row of letters on the chart. In contrast not a single patient of the 26 who were taking the placebo improved to that extent.

“This is the first proven treatment for a mitochondrial disorder. We have seen patients who couldn’t even see an eye chart on the wall go on to read the first line down ““ and some even attempted the second line. For these patients, it can mean a vast improvement in their quality of life,” Professor Patrick Chinnery, a Wellcome Trust Senior Fellow in Clinical Science at Newcastle University who also works at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle ““ part of the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was quoted as saying.

Professor Chinnery explained: “We saw most progress in people who had better vision in one eye than the other – this tends to indicate that they are at an earlier stage of the condition. While we know that their vision is not what it once was, we also know that this treatment can dramatically improve their lives ““ some were able to move around more easily or even see family photos again.”

Idebenone penetrates into the mitochondria and is thought to mop-up toxic free radicals and enhance mitochondrial function.

“We are hearing from patients that they still have improved vision ““ even though they are no longer taking the drug but we would like to verify this and study the effect further,” said Professor Chinnery. “There may also be a case for offering idebenone from the first moment that LHON is diagnosed ““ preferably before any symptoms are shown – and a further trial would ideally examine this.”

SOURCE: Brain, published online July 25, 2011




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