A new study led by researchers at University College London and Imperial College London funded by the Medical Research Council, has shown that the compound curcumin extracted from turmeric could be used in eye drops for treatment of early stages of glaucoma.

In the study, scientists tested a new method to deliver curcumin directly to the back of the eye using eye drops, thereby addressing the issue of curcumin’s poor solubility.

Researchers developed a novel nanocarrier, wherein curcumin was enclosed in a surfactant along with a stabiliser. The nanocarrier, when used in eye drops, can substantially improve the solubility of curcumin by a factor of almost 400,000 and can localise adequate amounts in the eyes. The product was initially tested on cells used to model glaucoma, and subsequently in rats with loss of retinal ganglion cells.

After administration of the eye drops in the rats twice-daily for 3 weeks, a significant reduction in retinal ganglion cell loss was observed compared with matched controls. Additionally, they had no signs of eye irritation or inflammation.

Help with Alzheimer´s diagnosis

With the success of effective curcumin delivery, the scientists are also hoping that the technique may be also able to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, as curcumin is known to bind to the amyloid beta protein deposits which can be detected in the retina with fluorescence.

Dr Ben Davis, one of the authors said: “We are now researching diagnostic uses for these eye drops alongside other ways to visualise the retina, as eye tests can be an opportunity to detect signs of neurodegeneration with a simple, non-invasive test.”

References

Turmeric extract in eye drops could treat the early stages of glaucoma. Medical Research Council. 2018 July 25. https://mrc.ukri.org/news/browse/turmeric-extract-in-eye-drops-could-treat-the-early-stages-of-glaucoma/