January 26, 2009

New diabetic retinopathy therapy possible

U.S. scientists say they've developed a new therapy that may be effective in treating diabetic retinopathy -- a common eye-related complication of diabetes.

Researchers from the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston and ActiveSite Pharmaceuticals Inc. in San Francisco say they've demonstrated a specific inhibitor of the protease plasma kallikrein -- ASP-440, developed by ActiveSite Pharmaceuticals -- might provide such a new therapeutic approach.

Led by Harvard University Associate Professor Edward Feener, the researchers discovered continuous systemic administration of ASP-440 proved effective in decreasing hypertension-induced increased retinal vascular permeability in rodents by as much as 70 percent. The scientists said increased retinal vascular permeability is a primary cause of diabetic macular edema, a leading cause of visual impairment associated with diabetes.

ASP-440 was also found to be effective in lowering the elevated blood pressure in the animals.

These findings represent a pivotal step towards understanding the importance of plasma kallikrein as a target in diabetic eye disease and how its inhibition may support the development of a safe and effective therapy for diabetic retinopathy, said Barbara Araneo, director of complications research for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

The research is reported in the February issue of the journal Hypertension.