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Eye drops effective against diabetic retinopathy, shows Catalan-led study

European project headed by Vall d'Hebron Research Institute opens way for more easily treating complication of diabetes that causes blindness 

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15 March 2019 12:20 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

A European project led by a chief researcher at the Vall d'Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) has shown for the first time in humans that neuroprotective eye drops are effective for treating diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that can cause blindness.

The breakthrough, led by the head of the Diabetes and Metabolism research group, Dr Rafael Simó, found that applying eye drops is effective because it allows the medicine to reach the retina, acting on the neurons there and avoiding their degeneration.

The discovery means that it will now be possible to treat the illness in its initial stages. About 30% of diabetic patients suffer from some degree of diabetic retinopathy, which continues to be the main cause of blindness among people of working age in developed countries.

  • "In those patients with neurological dysfunction of the retina, neuroprotective eye drops were effective in halting the progress of the neurodegeneration, which means the death of the retina's neurons"

    Rafael Simó · Doctor

Published in the magazine 'Diabetes,' it is the first study to show the efficacy of eye drops for treating the complication in humans, as until now the effect had only been demonstrated on rodents in the laboratory.

"In those patients with neurological dysfunction of the retina, neuroprotective eye drops were effective in halting the progress of the neurodegeneration, which means the death of the retina's neurons," says Dr Simó about the study's results.

The EUROCONDOR project has been funded with six million euros from the European Union Framework Programme. Under the leadership of the VHIR's Diabetes and Metabolism group, it involves work of 17 hospitals, universities and research centers in eight countries.

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  • Patient undergoing a retinography in Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital (by Laura Fíguls)

  • Patient undergoing a retinography in Barcelona's Vall d'Hebron hospital (by Laura Fíguls)