More than 100 researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) have used pigments to treat sight loss and other eye diseases.
The research is the first to use pigments in human patients and to demonstrate that the drugs can treat the effects of blindness.
The study is published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
“We have developed a system that targets the protein pigments that make up pigmentation spots and that make it hard to make pigments,” said NIAID Director Dr. John Schaeffer.
“This is a very exciting discovery.”
The researchers discovered that using nanoparticles from the bacterium Sulfoviridae, a common agent in the human body, they were able to produce the drug.
“The protein was found in many different types of skin, such as the outermost layer of the skin and under the skin, and it’s not just skin,” said study co-author Dr. Thomas Ochsner, director of the National Institute for Allergy, Infectious Disease and Immunity.
“So it could be used in other tissues and in other organs, like in the eye or in the liver.”
“We are very excited about the potential of this discovery,” said Ochsemer.
“I think it is a huge step forward in the development of a treatment for vision loss and in the ability to target the protein that makes it difficult to make these pigment spots.”
“In the future, we may be able to make more drugs, which would be an important step forward,” he added.
“What we are doing here is trying to make an animal that can mimic the immune system of a human.
This is a completely new approach to treating blindness,” said Dr. Andrew Dixson, a professor of medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine and the lead author of the study.”
This is an exciting discovery that opens up new therapeutic options for people who have been suffering from blindness for decades,” said lead author Dr. Steven C. Ehrlich, an NIAIDS research fellow.”
If this is the beginning of the next generation of drugs, it will be a tremendous accomplishment for NIAIDs,” he said.”
There is no doubt that this is a significant advance in the field of treating blindness and it could also pave the way for other treatments for other types of vision loss,” he concluded.”
When we were developing this drug, we were also thinking about how it might affect other diseases, such, for instance, blindness and other diseases like diabetes,” said Schaeffer.
“But now we are looking at a much wider spectrum of conditions.”
“The research team is excited about this important discovery, which is potentially very exciting because we know that it is able to target protein pigment formation in the skin,” he continued.
“We are also hopeful that it could help to target some of the protein formation defects that are so common in the eyes.”
“This work opens up a whole new way of looking at protein formation, and we are excited about that,” he noted.
“In addition, we believe that the drug could also be used for other diseases as well,” he went on to add.
“It is important to understand that this drug works by attacking the proteins responsible for the production of pigment, which are important for vision,” he told The Associated Press.
“That is, the protein is not only involved in pigment formation, but it also makes proteins in the retina, and that is important for making the pigments we see,” he explained.
“To our knowledge, this is one of the first in-vivo studies to look at the mechanism by which a protein can be targeted and the impact it has on pigmentation formation,” said Ehrliche.
The researchers are working to develop the drug in humans, which could potentially be tested in the coming years.