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A Canadian Discovery Moves from the Lab to Clinical Trials

A new potential treatment for diabetic macular edema and agerelated macular degeneration has been discovered by Canadian scientist Dr. Przemyslaw (Mike) Sapieha (Université de Montréal).

The primary treatment for these diseases is anti-VEGF injections which stop the growth of blood vessels. One of the problems with this type of treatment is that all blood vessel growth is stopped; both abnormal blood vessels and sometimes healthy blood vessels which are needed to keep the eye healthy and protect vision.

In a new study published in Cell Metabolism, Dr. Sapieha’s team identified a way to distinguish between healthy and diseased blood vessels. They identified a molecule, BCL-xL, that is higher in abnormal blood vessels compared to healthy vessels. Dr. Sapieha then teamed up UNITY Biotechnology, who have developed drugs that block BCL-xL function. One of these drugs slowed the growth of abnormal vessels in a mouse model of retinal degeneration while allowing healthy blood vessels to survive.

This class of drugs is now being tested in a Phase I human clinical trial to determine safety in individuals with diabetic macular edema or wet age-related macular degeneration.

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