A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by scientists from the University of Rome has shown that the administration of nerve growth factor (NGF) stabilizes or reduces the damage to the optic nerve caused by the raised intra-ocular pressure (IOP) associated with glaucoma.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that is the world’s leading cause of blindness affecting 77 million people around the world and causes irreversible damage to vision. An easy to use eye drop that stabilizes or reduces damage to retinal ganglion cells and the optic nerve cells offers exciting potential and is research that will be watched closely by companies with an ophthalmology portfolio.
NGF was discovered by Stanley Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini, who received the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology. NGF may have a neuroprotective and repair function within the body, which could explain its ability to stabilize nerve damage caused by raised IOP.
In the paper published by Bonini and Levi-Monalcini they administered eye drops with NGF to rats and three human subjects. This caused an reduction in retinal ganglion cell death in the rats, and the patients who received NGF had improvements in their visual field and visual acuity.
The data is extremely promising, but in view of the small subject numbers and the fact that rat models do not always translate into humans, more extensive clinical trials data are needed to validate it as a potential new treatment.
Lambiase, A., Aloe, L., Centofanti, M., Parisi, V., Mantelli, F., Colafrancesco, V., Manni, G., Bucci, M., Bonini, S., & Levi-Montalcini, R. (2009). Experimental and clinical evidence of neuroprotection by nerve growth factor eye drops: Implications for glaucoma Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0906678106
Sofroniew MV, Howe CL, & Mobley WC (2001). Nerve growth factor signaling, neuroprotection, and neural repair. Annual review of neuroscience, 24, 1217-81 PMID: 11520933