New technology offers promising treatment for ischemic retinopathy

Ischemic retinopathy, a condition that often leads to vision impairment and loss, occurs when the blood supply to the retina is reduced or cut off, e.g., by diabetes or in premature infants, leading to retinal damage. It is characterized by the breakdown of the blood-retinal barrier and abnormal blood vessel growth. A technology with the potential to treat ischemic retinopathy in premature infants and diabetic patients has been developed by Professor Byoung Heon Kang and his research team in the Department of Biological Sciences at UNIST, in collaboration with Professor Dong Ho Park’s team at Kyungpook National University Hospital. 

The researchers have identified the critical role of a protein called tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated protein 1 (TRAP1) in the pathogenesis of ischemic retinopathy. Through removal of the Trap1 gene or treatment with small molecule TRAP1 protein inhibitors, such as mitoquinone (MitoQ) and SB-U015, the research team successfully alleviated retinal pathologies in mouse models mimicking ischemic retinopathies. The results of this research were published in Advanced Science.

These findings open up new possibilities for innovative treatments against ischemic retinopathy, including retinopathy of prematurity and proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the most advanced stage of diabetic retinopathy. The technology provides a transformative approach by addressing the underlying causes of retinal diseases. Unlike conventional treatment methods, this technology can be easily administered using ophthalmic drugs, making it accessible to a wider range of patients. The therapeutic substance, currently being developed by Smartin Bio Inc., a startup company founded by Professor Byoung Heon Kang, is undergoing non-clinical trials. As further clinical trials and development progress, this innovation brings hope for a brighter future for patients suffering from retinopathy.

Sources:

Medical Xpress, January 17, 2024; see source article So‐Yeon Kim et al, Advanced Science (2023). DOI: 10.1002/advs.202302776