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Turmeric reduced retinal cell loss in animal models

Turmeric eye drops could treat glaucoma

31/10/2018By Richard Chiu • Staff Journalist
Eye drops laced with an extract of the common cooking spice turmeric have shown promise in treating the early stages of glaucoma.

A cohort study by researchers from the Imperial College and University College London (UCL) discovered eye drops containing curcumin, a derivative of turmeric, reduced retinal cell loss in lab rats.

Retinal cell loss is an early sign of glaucoma.

Curcumin had previously been shown to protect retinal ganglion cells when administered orally. However, because it doesn’t dissolve easily, patients were required to take as many as 24 tablets daily, which caused gastrointestinal side effects.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, found a new method of delivering curcumin directly to the back of the eye, overcoming the challenge of the substance’s poor solubility.

“Curcumin is an exciting compound that has shown promise at detecting and treating the neurodegeneration implicated in numerous eye and brain conditions from glaucoma to Alzheimer’s disease,” study lead author Professor Francesca Cordeiro, from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology said.

“Being able to administer it easily in eye drops may end up helping millions of people.”

In order to find a more reliable method to deliver curcumin directly to affected tissues, the team developed a nanocarrier that housed the curcumin within a surfactant combined with a stabiliser – both known to be safe for human use and are already used in existing eye products.

The nanocarrier was then used in eye drops to deliver higher amounts of curcumin than other products in development, increasing the drug’s solubility by a factor of almost 400,000. The method localises the curcumin to the eye instead of throughout the body.

The product was initially tested on cells used to model glaucoma before conducting trials in rats with eye conditions involving the loss of retinal ganglion cells.

Using the eye drops twice daily inllab rats for three weeks, retinal ganglion cell loss was significantly reduced compared with matched controls, and treatment showed no signs of eye irritation or inflammation.

Researchers are also hopeful it may one day be used to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

Curcumin is known to bind to the amyloid beta protein deposits implicated in the brain disorder, and can be detected in the retina with fluorescence to highlight the malignant proteins.

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