HIV drugs offer hope to prevent blindness

A class of 30-year-old HIV drugs could in future be used to prevent a common cause of incurable blindness, scientists believe.

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs) were originally developed to treat cancer but later harnessed to combat HIV and Aids.

New research shows that they block an inflammatory pathway closely linked to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that leads to progressive loss of vision.

There are two forms of AMD, wet and dry, classified by the presence or absence of blood vessels invading the retina. Although several therapies exist for the wet form, there is no approved treatment for dry AMD.

Mark Young, from the Cardiff University School of Biosciences, said: “Our work presents the first evidence for a potential therapy for the untreatable dry form of AMD, a condition which affects millions of people worldwide, with a drug that is already approved for use in humans.

“It also paves the way for repurposing of the NRTI drug family for treatment of a wide variety of inflammatory diseases.”

The research, led by a US team from the University of Kentucky, was reported in an online edition of the journal Science.


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