The devastating proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) will be targeted through new research by Weill Cornell Medicine thanks to a $1.27 million grant that they have received from the United States Department of Defense (DoD).
The research will be geared towards development of treatment for the rare eye condition largely affecting military personnel who suffer traumatic eye injuries in combat. The condition occurs when cells inside the eye bunch into a scar-like ball after a penetrating eye injury.
About 200,000 people worldwide each year sustain a penetrating wound to the eye, the main risk factor for PVR. It can also occur in some who undergo complex eye surgeries or experience a detached retina. The condition’s prevalence has risen among military personnel with the increasing use of explosive devices in modern combat and occurs in nearly half of those sustaining a penetrating eye wound.
The new project builds on Dr. Hajjar’s prior findings, also funded by the DoD, revealing that mice who lacked the gene for a protein called annexin A2 – which enables cells from the retina to bunch up in response to eye injury – were protected from developing PVR.
Also using animal models, her team will now determine whether injecting A2-blocking antibodies into an injured eye can prevent PVR. The antibodies were developed by the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (TDI), a collaboration among Weill Cornell Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Rockefeller University that is designed to expedite early-stage small molecule and antibody drug discovery into novel treatments for patients.
If the effort succeeds, Dr. Hajjar hopes to partner with a pharmaceutical or biotech company to conduct clinical trials in people within five years. In real-world use, the PVR treatment could be injected into a patient’s eye shortly after a traumatic eye injury.