Mahidol lab experiment offers hope for hereditary blindness
A medical lecturer at Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine has successfully treated a hereditary disease that causes blindness in a laboratory experiment using a diabetes drug, he announced.
Asst Prof Dr Chayanon Peerapittayamongkol, a resident physician at the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital, said the discovery of the use of metformin, a Type-2 diabetes medicine, to treat Leber heredity optic neuropathy (LHON) has been published in the MethodsX-journal elsevier (open access), which is a leading medical journal.
Chayanon said his study to use metformin to cure LHON disease in cultured cells from a LHON patient in his laboratory experiment was the first in the world.
Although it’s still at the laboratory trials stage, he is confident that the finding will lead to the development of a medicine to cure the hereditary disease so that people born with mutated gene that caused LHON would not have to suffer blindness in their later years, Chayanon added.
He explained that the blindness was caused by the mutation of a gene called mitochondria, which has functions of breathing and creating energy in the cellular level. He said mutated mitochondria genes cannot properly pass on electrons, affecting vision nerves that require a lot of energy, eventually resulting in blindness.
The heredity disease is mostly passed on from mother to child in her pregnancy, the doctor added.
Chayanon said metformin can rehabilitate mitochondria cells, and help the cells to better organise themselves as energy networks and live longer.
He said the medicine should help defer the hereditary blindness in people with the mutated genes. Such people normally start suffering from blurred vision at the age of 10 on one eye before the symptoms develop on the other eye and they eventually suffer total blindness.