Joslin Scientists Honored for Discovering Treatment for Diabetic Eye Disease


The Antonio Champalimaud vision award, the world’s largest award in Vision
Research will be presented in Portugal on September 10th to doctor George King and doctor Lloyd Paul Aiello. The two Joslin
researchers are among seven scientists being honored for their work on anti-VEGF treatment which have
had a major impact on the treatment of diabetic eye disease. All of us, myself particularly are just thrilled to be recognized with this award and to be recognized as
a part of that with all the other award winners all which
contributed so greatly to this really unique story that’s been evolving
over last couple decades is a tremendous source of pride and inspiration
for me. The development of anti-VEGF treatments for eye disease was a nearly 20-year long journey started by doctor King and doctor Aiello after reading reports a
newly identified molecule called VEGF that caused blood vessel growth and
leakage treatment for diabetic retinopathy really started in the nineteen sixties
and seventies. At that time over forty percent of
diabetic patients actually would become blind after twenty or thirty years. The first
breakthrough came with the laser treatment that really decreased the legal blindness in diabetic patients. Harvard the laser treatment is a destructive
procedure yeah actually decreased ability of diabetic patient to see well in low-light such as dusk or dawn yeah it cuts down peripheral vision so
it’s actually difficult to go up and down the stairs in the early nineties Napoleon Ferrara then at Genentech corporation reported
that he purified a factor called VEGF, or vascular endothelial growth
factor, which played a big role in new blood
vessel formation and leakage. I saw the report, looked at it and
said that’s exactly what we need in the eye to mediate the problems from diabetes so
the whole point is if we could decrease the leakage of the blood vessel then the swelling on
the back of the eye would go down then your vision actually will come back
so so that’s what VEGF looks like is causing the leakage in at least fifty
percent of the diabetic patients with this disease. As soon as we had a good idea that
this factor VEGF causes problems going on in the eye the obvious next step was to try to find
something that could block this factor. After a series of
experiments moving from culture dishes, to animal models, to human clinical
trials, it was shown that blocking the actions
of VEGF improved outcomes for people with three of the leading causes of blindness in
multiple age groups and now we have FDA approved anti-VEGF agents for the treatment of Macular
Degeneration, Diabetic Retinopathy, Central Retinal Vein Occlusion and it’s
incredibly effective to those. This has been hugely beneficial cuz
so many of these patients will gain vision back, not just stay stable, they will gain the
vision. Very, very few lose any vision so that’s
a terrific thing and half of them over a course now of three to
five years we have data don’t require any additional laser.
Doctor King and doctor Aiello plan to use the money granted from the award to further improve treatments for
late-stage diabetic eye disease. If we can come up with treatment that
could even prevent the patients from getting there or can we actually develop therapy that we don’t have to
have injection into the eye or laser then that would be
the ideal situation.