Asthma Medication Shown to Slow Early Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy in Mice

Asthma Medication Shown to Slow Early Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy in Mice

-Shahd Husein

According to a recent study published in Diabetes, the American Diabetes Association journal, researchers from the University Hospitals (UH) Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine found that oral montelukast can inhibit the early stages of diabetic retinopathy in mouse models. Montelukast, better known by its brand name Singulair, is primarily used to treat asthma. 

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that occurs when high blood glucose levels cause damage to the retina. The study, released this July, sought to understand if montelukast could inhibit inflammation of blood vessels in the eyes and, ultimately, slow down the effects of diabetic retinopathy. For the study, researchers tested their hypothesis on a mouse model of type 1 diabetes. 

Various biochemical measures were tested in the mouse models at 3 and 9 months after montelukast was administered. At 9 months, researchers reported that untreated mice saw a “3-fold increase in capillary degeneration” when compared to mice who did not have diabetes. For those treated with montelukast to prevent or slow diabetic retinopathy, researchers witnessed that the asthma drug “inhibited the diabetes-induced capillary and neuronal degeneration… starting at 4 ½ months following confirmation of diabetes.”

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Rose Gubitosi-Klug, MD, PhD, the Chief of Pediatric Endocrinology at UH’s Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and a Professor of Pediatrics at CWRU’s School of Medicine, noted that montelukast could significantly decrease inflammation in the retina and ultimately inhibit the earlier stages of diabetic retinopathy, according to a report in News Medical Life Sciences.

The potential benefits of montelukast could be significant since existing treatments for diabetic retinopathy only target later stages of the disease, reports Diabetes.co.uk. Because of this, according to Dr. Gubitosi-Klug, the drug could be worthwhile for individuals who are newly-diagnosed with diabetes.

Researchers now hope FDA approval for montelukast as a treatment for diabetic retinopathy in humans could be expedited, since the drug has already been approved to treat asthma. The daily dose presumably needed, she notes, would be similar to the dose used for treating asthma.

“The re-purposing of a medication already FDA-approved for use in children and adolescents sets the stage for rapid translation of these animal model findings to human subjects,” said Dr. Gubitosi-Klug in the News Medical Life Sciences report. “There is promise that a safe treatment that effectively stabilizes airways in asthma may also preserve small blood vessels and nerve cells in diabetes.”

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