EW Weekly, September 25, 2020

Retinal ‘organoid’ developed to study therapies for blinding diseases
Scientists at the Institute of Molecular and Clinical Ophthalmology Basel (IOB), in Basel, Switzerland, in collaboration with the Novartis Institute for Biomedical Research have created an artificial human retina (a human retinal organoid) that they say will help research the effect of treatments, such as gene therapy, on retinal structures for different retinal diseases. According to a press release from IOB, the artificial retina reacts to light in the same way as human retinas and has a layered structure. According to the abstract for this development published in the journal Cell, investigators sequenced the RNA of more than 285,000 single cells from the organoids at different developmental timepoints in vitro and compared them to in vivo human retina development, observing a similar rate of development among the two.

Study: Biomarker for neurodegenerative diseases found in the eye
A press release from Boston Medical Center announced that researchers had identified a well-known biomarker of neurodegenerative diseases in the eye, which could help identify such conditions earlier in the disease state. The biomarker—neurofilament light chain—is a protein that had previously been identified in cerebrospinal fluid and blood, which has now been found in the vitreous humor. Research published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy evaluated vitreous from 77 patients who were having previously scheduled eye surgery at Boston Medical Center. All patients had neurofilament light chain, but higher levels were associated with other known biomarkers of Alzheimer’s, such as amyloid beta and tau proteins. The press release noted that the levels of neurofilament light chain were not significantly associated with eye disease, which suggests that clinical eye conditions do not appear to be affecting the levels of this protein, according to the researchers. The investigators in the study’s abstract stated that this finding serves as a foundation for further investigation of neurofilament light chain in the eye.

Company receives IND for magnetic cell-based therapy to treat corneal edema
Emmetrope Ophthalmics (Emmecell) announced FDA acceptance of its Investigational New Drug application for its first-in-class, non-surgical therapy to treat corneal edema. EO2002 is a magnetic cell-based therapy that uses the company’s Magnetic Cell Delivery nanoparticle platform. According to the company’s press release, this treatment is designed to address corneal edema before it becomes disabling and painful in an effort to prevent or delay vision loss that could lead to the need for corneal transplantation. The company plans to embark on patient enrollment for a Phase 1 clinical trial to assess tolerability, safety, and efficacy in the first quarter of 2021.

Gene therapy for dry AMD granted Fast Track designation
Gyroscope Therapeutics announced that it has received Fast Track designation from the FDA for GT005, its gene therapy treatment for geographic atrophy secondary to dry AMD. The Fast Track designation is for patients with geographic atrophy who have specific mutations to their Complement Factor I (CFI) gene and low levels of CFI protein in their blood. Enrollment for a Phase 2 study for the gene therapy for this group is underway, but the company stated in a press release that it plans to begin a second Phase 2 study in a broader patient population later this year.

Eyevance becomes wholly owned subsidiary of Santen
Santen Pharmaceuticals announced that Santen Holdings U.S. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Santen) entered a share-purchase agreement with Eyevance Holdings for outstanding shares of Eyevance Pharmaceutical Holdings. According to a press release from Santen, the transaction was closed with execution of the agreement for a $225 million all-cash purchase that makes Eyevance a wholly owned subsidiary of Santen. Two Eyevance products—VISOVANQ (sterile vancomycin ophthalmic ointment) and NEXAGON (ophthalmic gel for persistent corneal epithelial defects)—were not included in this purchase.

20/Happy in 2020: ASCRS continues master class
This weekend ASCRS continues its “20/Happy in 2020: The ASCRS Master Class in Refractive Cataract Surgery,” which includes 18 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits as well as non-CME symposia that attendees can view live or watch later at their own pace. Every other week, live symposia will be aired on Saturdays, avoiding conflicts with clinic and OR time. At the conclusion of the multi-week master class, participants will receive a frameable certificate. A total of nine CME modules will cover topics including preoperative diagnostics, IOL calculations, IOL design, patient selection, education, and counseling, efficiency, and more, with discussion and expertise provided by a faculty of 80 surgeons from around the world. Sessions consist of lectures, audience Q&A, and live panel discussions. Attendees who don’t attend sessions live will have the opportunity to watch recorded versions. This Saturday, September 26 features module 4, a session on “Patient Education and Counseling—Being Effective and Efficient.” Learn more and register at https://ascrs.org/20happy.

Research highlights
  • A cohort study of all inpatients at the Suizhou Zengdu Hospital in Suizhou, China, from Jan. 27–March 13, 2020, evaluated the impact of daily eyeglasses wear and COVID-19 infection. The researchers considered daily eyeglasses wear being used for more than 8 hours per day. Two hundred and seventy-six patients with COVID-19 were enrolled in the study, and of these, 16 patients were considered daily eyeglass wearers. This, the study authors noted, was lower than the proportion of people with myopia in the Hubei province overall, which is 31.5% of the population being daily eyeglass wearers based on previous research. With this information, the researchers theorized that this could “[suggest] that daily wearers of eyeglasses may be less susceptible to COVID-19.” This study is published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
  • Early onset of myopia is strongly associated with the risk of developing high myopia in adulthood according to a cohort study in China with 12 years of follow-up. The research published in JAMA Ophthalmology is an ongoing, population-based, prospective twin study in Guangzhou. This analysis included 443 participants after exclusions with age of myopia onset being recorded followed by refraction when reaching adulthood. According to the study, risk of developing high myopia was more than 50% when myopia onset occurred at 7 or 8 years old. Risk of developing high myopia by adulthood was 30% if myopia onset occurred at age 9, 20% if onset occurred at 10, and less than 5% if onset occurred at age 12. The study authors concluded: “Each year of delay in the age at onset substantially reduces the chance of developing high myopia in adulthood, highlighting the importance of identifying effective prevention strategies under investigation, such as increasing outdoor time.”

This issue of EyeWorld Weekly was edited by Stacy Jablonski and Vanessa Caceres.

EyeWorld Weekly (ISSN 1089-0319), a digital publication of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), is published every Friday, distributed by email, and posted live on Friday.

Medical Editors: Eric Donnenfeld, MD, Chief Medical Editor; Rosa Braga-Mele, MD, Cataract Editor; Clara Chan, MD, Cornea Editor; Nathan Radcliffe, MD, Glaucoma Editor; and Vance Thompson, MD, Refractive Editor

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