New Compounds for Glaucoma Therapy

Chan Young Park, PhD
Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (Boston, MA)
Year Awarded:
2019
Grant Duration:
July 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020
Disease:
Glaucoma
Award Amount:
$200,000
Grant Reference ID:
G2019179
Award Type:
Standard
Award Region:
US Northeastern
Chan Young Park, PhD

Small Molecular Compounds for Glaucoma Therapy

Summary

The fluid in the eyes of glaucoma patients  has higher concentration of a chemical than the fluid in the eyes of healthy adults. This chemical, a growth factor, transforms tissues to be stiffer and the tissue stiffness is known to increase the chance of glaucoma, the second leading cause of vision loss. We propose to test a new drug (called “remodilins”) to see if we can make those stiffened tissue back to softer state. If remodilin does what we expect it to do, then remodilins could be a new
glaucoma drug.

Details

Glaucoma is often caused by the stiffening of tissues through which fluid inside of eyes flows out of eyes and if we can prevent such tissue stiffening or reverse the stiffened tissues back to their normal stiffness, then modulating tissue stiffness would be a new therapy for glaucoma.

The goal of our research is to test if the treatment of small molecular compounds can modulate the mechanical properties and structural compositions of tissues inside of glaucoma eyes. In previous works, we have discovered small molecular compounds, called "remodilins" which prevent cellular transformations that cause elevation of tissue stiffness and extra cellular matrix (ECM) depositions. Given that similar transformation happens in most of glaucoma eyes, we aim to test if remodilins prevent or reverse such transformation of tissues consisting of the outflow pathway. The first two specific aims are to test the effect of remodilins on 2 types of eye cells; Schlemm’s canal endothelial cells and trabecular meshwork cells, respectively. Both cells consist of tissues along the outflow pathway. Once we find the efficacy of remodilins in cellular models, in the third specific aim, we will test one best remodilin in human eyes using anterior chamber perfusion system (will be performed by Dr. Stamer in Duke Univ.) as well as histological examination (will be performed by Dr. Gong in Boston Univ.) and in-situ mechanical measurements (will be performed by Dr. Johnson in Northwestern Univ.).
 
What is unique about this study is that we try to modulate the compositions and the mechanical properties of eye tissues which have been changed during the progression of glaucoma.  If we find that remodilins prevent or reverse the structural and mechanical transformation of eye tissues, remodilin would prevent the continuous decrease in outflow facility (drain rate of fluid inside eye) and will help slow down disease progression for glaucoma patients.

About the Researcher

Chan Young Park, PhD, earned his PhD in his native Korea where he studied biomechanical engineering. During his postdoctoral positions at MIT and Harvard School of Public Health, he explored cell mechanics in various types of human cells. He has also helped develop new tools to quantify cellular mechanical properties. Once he became a research scientist, he began to explore how modulating cellular mechanical properties could work as a therapeutic target for certain diseases such as asthma, cancer, and glaucoma. 

Personal Story

 I am very grateful to the BrightFocus donors for supporting our research. Since my graduate school, I have always been fascinated by the biomedical devices that help physicians cure diseases. Over the past decades, we have expanded our understanding on how important the physical properties of cells and tissues are in both physiology and pathologies. Also, we have increased our capabilities to modulate physical properties of cells and tissues. With these knowledges and abilities, we can now develop a new therapy for certain diseases by modulating physical properties of tissues. With the generous support from BrightFocus donors, our team (Drs. Park, Johnson, Stamer and Gong) can now test this idea for glaucoma.

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