FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 2016

New study claims HIV/AIDS medications could also treat AMD

The back of the eye with late-stage AMD. | Bradley D. Gelfand, University of Kentucky Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences

A recent study suggests that HIV/AIDS drugs that have been used for the last 30 years could also be used to treat the dry form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), as well as other inflammatory disorders.

The study, published in "Science" by an international group of scientists led by Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati, professor and vice chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Kentucky, claims the drugs can be utilized for the dry form of AMD because of a previously undiscovered intrinsic and inflammatory activity that the drugs possess.

AMD is a progressive condition that can cause blindness with no approved treatment methods. It is untreatable in upwards of 90 percent of people who are stricken with it. In the dry form, the blood vessels under the macula become thin and brittle. 

The study found that multiple FDA-approved nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) prevented retinal degeneration in a mouse by blocking an “inflammasome,” which is an innate immune pathway.

"Repurposing of NRTIs could be advantageous, for one, because they are very inexpensive,” Benjamin Fowler, the lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow in the Ambati lab, said. “Moreover, through decades of clinical experience, we know that some of the drugs we tested are incredibly safe."

NRTIs are the most widely used class of anti-HIV drugs. They were originally designed to treat cancer in the 1960s and re-emerged in the late 1980s as the first FDA-approved drugs to treat HIV/AIDS.

"Since these NRTIs are already FDA-approved, they could be rapidly and inexpensively translated into therapies for a variety of untreatable or poorly treatable conditions," Fowler said.

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