Washington D.C.: Nature is believed to hold the answers for the treatment of causes of blindness, says a study published in the Journal of Natural Products.
"It goes without saying that losing your eyesight is a devastating experience. We believe that our results hint at possible future treatments for many degenerative eye conditions and it appears that nature still has many secrets to reveal," said Professor Dulcie Mulholland, who was part of the new study.
The scientists have discovered and tested compounds from a group of plants that could be effective in treating the causes of degenerative eye diseases like proliferative diabetic retinopathy.
The researchers detailed their testing of naturally occurring homoisoflavonoids which are found in the Hyacinthaceae plant family and their synthetic derivatives.
The abnormal growth of new blood vessels in the eye is linked to several types of blindness, including in premature babies (retinopathy of prematurity), diabetics (proliferative diabetic retinopathy) and older adults (wet age-related macular degeneration).
The tests were designed to know how well these compounds were able to quell the growth of new blood vessels and isolated several active compounds.
Retinopathy of prematurity affects around 20 per cent of premature babies and mainly occurs in those who are born before week 32 of pregnancy or weigh less than 1500g.Diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging the back of the eye - causing blindness if left untreated. It is estimated to affect 28 million people worldwide.
Wet age-related macular degeneration is one of the world's leading causes of blindness - affecting 20 million older adults worldwide.
"Existing therapies for these diseases must be injected into the eye, and do not work in all patients. Our findings are a first step towards therapies that might avoid these shortcomings," said Prof Tim Corson.
Expressing optimism over future breakthroughs based on the latest research, Dr. Sianne said, "The discovery of new and innovative treatments from natural sources for life-altering diseases has huge potential. This work has produced a real opportunity to further collaboration and has the potential to bring new breakthroughs in the treatment of degenerative eye-diseases."