Natural products could treat blindness

03 February 2012

Natural products could treat blindness

Thousands of products are being tested in search of an effective treatment

More than 5000 different types of natural products, such as plants, are being tested by scientists searching for an effective treatment for two common causes of blindness.

Glasgow Caledonian University Life Sciences researcher Dr Xinhua Shu is working with a huge range of natural products to uncover a new treatment for disease retinitis pigmentosa (RP) and late-onset retinal macular degeneration (AMD). He works with pharmacologist colleague Professor Alan L Harvey from Strathclyde University.

Dr Shu, from the Diabetes Research Group, Institute for Applied Health Research, School of Health and Life Sciences, was awarded £15,000 from the Rosetree Trust in December to add to the long list of other grants he has received to support his team’s work.

Dr Shu works with animal models, in this case zebra fish – a small tropical fish commonly found in aquariums – as they have similar retinas to those found in humans.

He said: “We want to find some natural product which can help delay the disease process. This wouldn’t cure the disease but would let the patient enjoy a better quality of life for longer.”

RP is a disease of the eye in which there is damage to the retina; it leads to loss of vision and blindness.  It can run in families and can be caused by a number of genetic defects.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects a tiny part of the retina at the back of the eye. It causes problems with central vision and may cause a blank patch in the centre of an individual’s vision and accounts for about 50% of blind registrations in Western countries.

It is expected the study will take ten more years to bring a product to market.

Dr Shu is affiliated to GCU’s Diabetes Research Group led by Professor Ann Graham in the Institute for Applied Health Research.

Dr Shu added: “It’s a long way to go but I am optimistic we will find a treatment.”

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