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Centenary Institute - Medical Research

Centenary Discovery Could Save the Sight of Millions

Globally, 415 million adults were living with diabetes in 2015 and this figure is predicted to rise to 642 million by 2040, representing approximately 10% of the world’s population aged between 20 and 79.

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition where the tiny blood vessels in the retina become damaged and start to bleed, often leading to vision loss. It is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults. 

Currently, 1 in 3 people with diabetes will develop retinopathy over their lifetime.

As the global population ages, and rates of obesity and diabetes increase at an unprecedented rate, diabetic retinopathy will become a significant burden on human health and society as a whole.

Diabetic retinopathy is recognised as the most common complication associated with diabetes and it can develop in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, usually affecting both eyes. Treatment options for patients with diabetic retinopathy are currently limited to laser treatment, surgery or the direct injection into the eye of an antibody-based treatment. However, these treatments are not always successful and the injections can result in serious side effects.

The team in our Vascular Biology Program are excited to have developed a new drug, known as CD5-2, that could potentially treat diabetic retinopathy. This work has recently been published in the international journal, Diabetologia. The breakthrough brings the benefits of preventing the blood vessels from leaking whilst also inhibiting the damaging inflammation that is associated with diabetic retinopathy.

“We believe CD5-2 could be used to treat those patients who fail to respond to existing treatments, and may improve outcomes for those receiving antibody-based injections” 

Dr Ka Ka Ting, senior scientist involved in the research of CD5-2 in eye disease

In collaboration with scientists in Denmark, our team, headed by Professor Jennifer Gamble, has shown that CD5-2 acts to reverse the breakdown of the endothelial cell barrier which results in bleeding from blood vessels, known as vascular leak. Vascular leak is one of the underlying issues in many chronic inflammatory diseases.

CD5-2 is an exciting development as there is no other drug on the market that is known to target such a central and critical pathological event. It presents a potential new treatment for those for whom existing options are inappropriate or ineffective. It also has the potential to improve patient outcomes when used alongside existing treatments. Further, since it mends vascular leak, CD5-2 could be used in other chronic inflammatory diseases, where leaky blood vessels are seen (eg in solid tumour growth, stroke, dementia).

The use of CD5-2 in diabetic retinopathy could result in the eyesight of literally millions of people being saved, sparing those individuals the devastating impact of blindness, and reducing the huge cost to society of caring for those who might otherwise have needed significant support for the remainder of their lives.

We now need your help to get to the next step. Before CD5-2 can progress to human testing, it requires pre-clinical evaluation.  Your gift can make a real impact on our capacity to move our discovery to clinical trials. 

Please join with us in this global fight to save the sight of the millions of people at risk of blindness. 

Read about more achievements and how you can help, here.