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New drugs prevent scarring after glaucoma eye surgery


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Under embargo until
18.00 Sunday 18 July 2004

Highly innovative new drugs that can prevent scarring in the eye after glaucoma surgery have been discovered by a London-based team of scientists, who report today in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

By targeting more than one aspect of the scarring process at the same time, the team has been able to use the drugs safely and successfully in animal models of glaucoma surgery. The group includes scientists and clinicians from Imperial College London at Hammersmith Hospital, the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London, Moorfields Eye Hospital, and The School of Pharmacy, University of London.

Glaucoma is the most important cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, affecting more than half a million people in the UK alone. It is caused by increased fluid pressure within the eye compressing the nerves at the back of the eye. This pressure then causes irreversible damage to the optic nerve at the back of the eye. Patients require surgery to create a new channel in the eye to drain away the excess fluid and reduce the pressure. However, the channel can become blocked because of scarring and this leads to the failure of the operation and blindness.

The new drugs are sugar-like molecules designed and engineered to mimic the body's own immune defence mechanisms. "Our approach is a departure from traditional drug design and we have been astonished by the dramatic results," said Professor Sunil Shaunak of Imperial College London at Hammersmith Hospital, who leads this multidisciplinary effort. "The increase in the success rate of glaucoma surgery from 30% to 80% in animals treated with this drug has encouraged us to start planning clinical trials in humans."

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Notes for Editors:

'Polyvalent dendrimer glucosamine conjugates prevent scar tissue formation' (NBT-RA09486D):

For more information, please contact:

Lead spokesman for the multidisciplinary team & Imperial College London:
Professor Sunil Shaunak, Imperial College London at Hammersmith Hospital.
Office: 0208 383 2301
Mobile: 07930 311058

Lead spokesman about glaucoma & for the Institute of Ophthalmology (University College London) and Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust:
Professor Peng Khaw at the Institute of Ophthalmology & Moorfields Hospital.
Office: 020 7608 6887
Mobile: 07956 989581

About Imperial College London

Consistently rated in the top three UK university institutions, Imperial College London is a world leading science-based university whose reputation for excellence in teaching and research attracts students (11,000) and staff (6,000) of the highest international quality. Innovative research at the College explores the interface between science, medicine, engineering and management and delivers practical solutions that enhance the quality of life and the environment - underpinned by a dynamic enterprise culture.
Website: www.imperial.ac.uk

About Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust

Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust, based in north west London, comprises Hammersmith, Charing Cross, Queen Charlotte's & Chelsea and Ravenscourt Park Hospitals. The unique world-class research environment at the Hammersmith provides the opportunity for translational research reaching from laboratory bench to patient's bedside. In addition to receiving a large proportion of the NHS R&D budget, the Trust works closely with Imperial College London in all clinical specialities. The Medical Research Council's largest clinical research centre is also based at Hammersmith Hospital and many major charities fund research units. Over 60% of our research budget is dedicated to programmes targeted at national priorities, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.

About the Institute of Ophthalmology

The Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, together with its partner Moorfields Eye Hospital, is the premier eye research institution in the world. The Institute has achieved the highest possible 5* score in all the recent research assessment exercise ratings. The mission of the Institute is to develop innovative methods to reduce blindness based on high quality laboratory science.

About The School of Pharmacy, University of London

The School of Pharmacy, University of London, is the only free-standing specialist institution in the UK dedicated to teaching, research and technology development in pharmacy and the pharmaceutical sciences. Its rich research portfolio embraces a broad spectrum of activities concerned with drug discovery, development, formulation and delivery, giving rise to exceptional expertise in medicines and healthcare. This expertise is directly translated into health services and products of value to society, including new drugs and therapies for cancer and innovative postgraduate courses for those wishing to pursue specific careers within the pharmaceutical industry.

About Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

Opened in 1805 Moorfields Eye Hospital is one of the worlds leading centres for eye health. It is the oldest and largest specialist eye hospital in the world, and is one of the first NHS foundation Trusts. The entire range of eye diseases is treated at Moorfields Eye Hospital and patients come from all over the UK and the world.

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