Neuroprotective cell/drug therapies for ocular injuries

Aim: To improve the usability of gene therapy and other common therapies with delivery agents such as peptides or polymers through preclinical formulation, testing and regulatory pathway to readiness for clinical trial as treatments for ocular damage. The ultimate aim is to see whether we can enhance the penetration of neuroprotective ocular therapies.

Background: Damaged retinal neurons are not replaced making the preservation and protection of compromised neurons an imperative. Neuroprotective therapies could transform the management and outcomes in a variety of CNS pathologies, especially traumatic brain injury (TBI) and traumatic optic neuropathy.

In trauma, CNS axons are reversibly compressed and cell death is initiated during compression. The potential for a return of function after decompression is central to the success of neuroprotective therapy. However, there are many barriers in the eye preventing topical ocular drug delivery for treatments at the back of the eye to treat these diseases and patients often have to undergo painful injections.

Progress so far: The team have developed chaperone proteins that carry large molecules non-invasively into the posterior segment of the eye, potentially allowing intravitreal injection of therapies to be substituted for eye drops. In addition to this they have developed a laboratory corneal assay to assess drug delivery through the barriers present in the cornea.

Lead researchers