Drugs

Shark Eye Drops To Cure Blindness? Pharma Companies Test Squalamine, Chemical Found In Liver, To Treat AMD

Spiny Dogfish
Researchers from OHR Pharmaceuticals have developed shark eye drops from the spiny dogfish's liver that could defend against blindness. Creative Commons

The medical research and development company OHR Pharmaceutical Inc. is currently in the middle of clinical trials to test shark eye drops derived from the liver of spiny dogfish. Researchers are confident a molecule found in the animal's organ may help treat and prevent wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD), both the U.S. and Britain's leading cause of blindness.

Wet AMD occurs after abnormal blood vessels behind the retina begin to grow under the macula causing the outflow of blood and fluid. The result is swelling and possible scarring around the retina. Wet AMD is regarded as more severe compared to dry AMD and affects around 10 percent of all people with age-related macular degeneration, the National Institutes of Health reports.

The molecule that has helped OHR develop this unique solution is known as squalamine, and it comes from the stomach and liver of the spiny dogfish shark. The chemical has been accredited with the shark's essential ability to ward off bacterial infection.

The research team at OHR believes squalamine is able to block certain proteins in the body that facilitate the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Similar to current treatments for AMD, the synthetic squalamine solution was originally administered by way of injections directly into the eye's bloodstream. However, during further testing, the compound was reformulated into a more convenient eye drop.

According to a statement on OHR's website, "Squalamine had previously been evaluated for the treatment of wet-AMD using an intravenous formulation in over 250 patients. The trials demonstrated that the molecule had biologic effect and maintained and improved visual acuity outcomes, with both early and advanced lesions responding."

"The program had been taken into to a phase III study with a special protocol assessment and fast track status from the US FDA, but had been discontinued due to the commercial challenges of a chronic weekly IV infusion for this patient population."

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