Quethera’s current main focus is on the design and testing of a gene therapy aimed at preservation of sight in patients with glaucoma. Quethera has plans to begin work on additional ophthalmic gene therapies in the near future.
Glaucoma is a group of ocular disorders often associated with elevated eye pressure can cause loss of vision and ultimately blindness. If left untreated, glaucoma may lead to loss in retinal ganglion cells and permanent damage to the optic nerve which results is progressive visual loss.
Glaucoma is divided into two categories, ‘open-angle’ and ‘closed-angle’ glaucoma where the angle refers to the area between the iris and cornea, through which aqueous humour fluid flows to exit the eye via the trabecular meshwork. Whereas ‘closed-angle’ glaucoma can appear suddenly, is often painful and results in a rapid loss in vision, ‘open-angle’ glaucoma tends to progress at a slower rate. Primary open-angle glaucoma represents approximately 90% of glaucoma cases in western countries. ‘Closed-angle’ glaucoma will often receive quick medical treatment, due to the ocular symptoms, such as pain, seeing halos around lights, red eye, very high intraocular pressure (>30 mmHg), nausea and vomiting, suddenly decreased vision, and a fixed, mid-dilated pupil, whereas people with ‘open-angle’ glaucoma may not notice they have lost vision until the disease has progressed significantly.
Glaucoma disease prevalence increases with age. Approximately 1 in 200 people aged 50 and younger have the condition, rising to at least one in ten over the age of eighty. Overall, in the U.K. the number of patients diagnosed with glaucoma is around 1,000 per 100,000 of people aged 40-89 or around 500,000 with the condition being responsible for 11% of all blindness registrations. Screening for glaucoma is usually performed as part of a standard eye examination performed by optometrists or ophthalmologists who examine for changes in visual fields and raised intraocular pressure using tonometry.
Lowering IOP using drugs, laser treatment or surgery is currently the only treatment proven to slow visual loss in glaucoma, but in many patients vision continues to deteriorate despite lowering of intraocular pressure. Once lost, vision cannot be recovered, so there is an urgent unmet clinical need for new treatments that reduce visual deterioration in glaucoma, particularly in those where IOP reduction alone has failed to arrest the disease process.
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