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New Drug Shows Promise Against Diabetic Eye Condition

A new study suggests that eye injections of the drug Lucentis (also known as ranibizumab) appear to be useful in the treatment of a potentially blinding eye condition called macular edema that can afflict people with diabetes. "The results are impressive," lead author Dr. Quan Dong Nguyen, from Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute in Baltimore, said in a statement. However, "we will not know until we begin a larger clinical trial what the long-term benefits of the drug might be."
In diabetic macular edema, fluid accumulates in part of the retina responsible for central vision. Increased expression of the growth factor known as VEGF is thought to play a role in macular edema. Therefore, treatments that block VEGF, like ranibizumab, could potentially be useful.

Previous reports have shown ranibizumab to be effective in cases of age-related macular degeneration. In the present study, Nguyen’s team investigated the effects of ranibizumab in 10 patients with diabetic macular edema. The subjects were given intraocular injections of ranibizumab at the start of the study and at 1, 2, 4, and 6 months.

At the 7-month checkup, researchers noted a significant drop in macular thickness and improvement in visual acuity in study subjects.

The eye injections were well tolerated and were not associated with any side effects, the report indicates.

"We’ve suspected for a while that ranibizumab’s ability to shut down VEGF’s signaling would do the trick because it’s highly likely that VEGF is the culprit when it comes to diabetic macular edema," Nguyen noted.

A study investigating the long-term benefits of ranibizumab for diabetes patients with macular edema is currently in the planning stage.

American Journal of Ophthalmology December 2006.

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