Fight for Sight funded researchers test drug with potential to restore sight loss from optic neuritis

09 March 21

written by:

Róisín Treacy

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A man wearing a suit and glasses, looking directly at the camera.

Fight for Sight is funding scientists at UCL to test a repurposed drug for the treatment of a sight-threatening eye condition common in people with multiple sclerosis.

The team will determine if administering one tablet of nimodipine, an existing drug used to treat brain bleeds, can acutely improve the function of the optic nerve in patients with optic neuritis.

Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve, the nerve that relays visual information from the eye to the brain. The condition mainly affects young people and is an important cause of blindness in young adults. The condition is often a presenting symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS), or can occur later in the course of MS.

Nimodipine has been shown to improve brain oxygenation and neurological function in optic neuritis when tested in the lab. As the drug is repurposed, it has already been approved for human use and has been on the market for many years, which would mean a much faster process to take the new treatment to patients if the tests prove positive.

Dr Anand Trip, who is leading the research at UCL, said, “Currently, severe MS relapses like optic neuritis can only be treated with steroids, which accelerate the recovery but do not improve the outcome. We know that acute problems with nerve function in MS are partly caused by decreased blood flow and low oxygen levels. Recently, it was demonstrated in the lab that nimodipine can acutely improve brain oxygenation and neurological function, sometimes dramatically so. It is our hope that we will now see similar results when we trial this with a small number of patients with optic neuritis.”

Chief Executive of Fight for Sight, Sherine Krause, said: “We are really delighted to fund this valuable piece of research that we hope will, if successful, lead to a new treatment for optic neuritis. Optic neuritis can have a devastating impact on the vision and lives of patients so we look forward to seeing the results of Dr Trip’s research.”

Read more about our research
A woman smiling directly at the camera.
Iris Kleerekooper is on the research team at UCL.