The Quest to Halt Vision Loss and Blindness
With no early warning signs and symptoms, glaucoma is a complicated, progressive group of eye diseases. Left untreated, it is a leading cause of vision loss and irreversible blindness.
With no cure available, Research Assistant Professor Peter Dosa of the college’s Institute for Therapeutics Discovery & Development is working to halt glaucoma’s vision loss through the development of improved medications, which is especially critical for those populations disproportionately affected by glaucoma—African Americans, seniors age 60 and older, individuals with a family history of glaucoma and those with diabetes.
With funding from the Minnesota Partnership for Biotechnology and Medical Genomics and the U’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, Dosa is working with Associate Professor Michael Fautsch from Mayo Clinic’s Department of Ophthalmology on the research to find a new medication option for those suffering from glaucoma.
“My main research interest is modifying existing drugs to get better therapeutics”
“So, when Mayo Clinic came to us with this novel class of compounds with great potential to treat glaucoma, it was a good opportunity for us to work together on an unmet need.”
Existing medications to treat glaucoma often have side effects. Mayo Clinic preliminary research showed that a new class of drugs offered great potential in halting glaucoma’s progression. However, the drugs needed to be modified in order to be suitable for eye drop administration.
“Intraocular pressure of the eye is the only thing that we can easily modify to treat glaucoma today,” said Dosa. “We are working diligently to modify an existing drug to make it suitable for eye drop administration. This medication offers a new way of lowering intraocular pressure—and the goal is to develop a way to deliver it right to the eye with a small, once-a-day, appropriate dose.”
Preliminary evidence suggests that the drug - recently licensed the compound to a company named CalypsoQ - may offer neuro-protective benefits, which is a major benefit not available in existing glaucoma medications.
“If we are able to lower elevated intraocular pressure and also directly protect the optic nerve, we should be able to significantly lower the possibility of vision loss or blindness,” said Dosa.
He added, “If we find a drug that works as neuro-protective in humans, it will be a huge step forward in the treatment of glaucoma. If someone has high intraocular pressure and it’s detected early, this medication could prevent and control glaucoma.”