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FUTURE FILE: Early data on promising new treatments for retinal disease.

Highlighting innovative early-stage and preclinical concepts in retina

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Future File is a Retinal Physician feature designed to highlight new and innovative early-stage and preclinical concepts that could one day help to advance the everyday practice of retina specialists.

An Early Sign for Retinoblastoma Development

■ Researchers at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles have identified the point in retinal development where cells grow out of control and form cancer-like masses that are a precursor of retinoblastoma. The new study is a continuation of research supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute and was published online recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The investigation represents the first of its kind by identifying the phase of human retinal development when specific cells — called cone precursors — may turn cancerous.

“Understanding this phase of development and what goes wrong can help us find ways to intervene and eventually prevent retinoblastoma,” said David Cobrinik, MD, PhD, of The Vision Center at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. 

UK Researchers See Promise in AMD Eye Drops

■ Scientists at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, are in early preclinical development of an eye drop for treatment for treatment of AMD. Historically, researchers attempting to use eye drops to treat retina disease have faced many challenges.

The technology behind the new eye drop is a cell-penetrating peptide that can deliver drug to the retina. The scientists’ pending patents for the eye drops are now owned by US-based company Macregen. The combined team is now expediting proof-of-concept studies to confirm the validity of the therapeutic approach. Clinical trials will begin once these studies are completed and could start as early as this year.

Combating DR at the Cellular Level

■ A research team led by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) has revealed changes in retinal cell layers that drive the progression of diabetic retinopathy. Their unique imaging technique identified biomarkers of cellular damage occurring over a 10-month period in mice.

Imaging involved a tool developed by UWM professor of physics Carol Hirschmugl that concentrates the intense light of a synchrotron in the infrared wavelengths. Combined with a technique called Fourier transform infrared (FT-IR) imaging, the researchers recorded a molecular fingerprint for functional groups, such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids, which can signal the development of retinal disease. The imaging platform also has the potential to find damaged cells in other disease models.

Results showed that the retina’s photoreceptors are the most susceptible cells to the damage at the onset of the disease. At 6 weeks into the disease, however, the chemistry of only 1 retinal layer showed changes, while the others appeared healthy.

Miniature Camera Has Potential in Ophthalmic Surgeries

■ London-based innovation specialist Cambridge Consultants has demonstrated a single-use, high-definition miniature camera called Leap. The technology allows a digital view inside veins and arteries for the first time.

Leap builds on the latest generation of submillimeter cameras, enabling surgeons to visualize parts of the anatomy currently inaccessible with today’s imaging techniques. With potential for even smaller cameras on the horizon, this highly miniaturized architecture features a 400 x 400-pixel image (0.16 megapixels) as a standard capability, an order of magnitude improvement over standard fiber-optic imaging.

In the future, Leap technology could be combined with Cambridge Consultants’ “super-resolution” image processing to increase the resolution further to 1600 x 1600 pixels (2.6 megapixels). This proprietary technique harnesses deep learning to enhance low-resolution images without the blurring associated with traditional upscaling and could ultimately provide visualization for the most challenging surgeries.

Lutronic Vision Seeks to Perfect Restorative Laser

■ Lutronic Vision has initiated a preclinical trial to determine the optimal setting for its R:GEN laser for the treatment of dry AMD. Lutronic says the R:GEN is a fully integrated laser platform that safely and precisely targets the retina pigment epithelium to regenerate and restore its function.

Whereas older retinal photocoagulator lasers destroyed retinal tissue in an effort to preserve vision, the company says the R:GEN aims to revitalize retinal tissue by stimulating repair. Through this pioneering mechanism, Lutronic Vision says it aims to introduce a new concept in ophthalmic retinal lasers.

This study has been initiated at the University of Southern California with Stan Louie, PharmD, professor of pharmacy, as the lead investigator, and Juan Carlos Martinez Camarillo, MD, assistant professor of research ophthalmology. At the conclusion of this study, Lutronic Vision will be poised to initiate clinical evaluation of the R:GEN laser’s ability to treat dry AMD. RP