Endothelin antagonism as an active principle for glaucoma therapy

Rita Rosenthal, Michael Fromm
British Journal of Pharmacology 2011, 162 (4): 806-16
Endothelin, the most potent vasoactive peptide known to date, has been suggested to play a potential role in the pathogenesis of open-angle glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common optic nerve head neuropathy and is associated with a loss of retinal ganglion cells and visual field damage. Although an increased intraocular pressure is a major risk factor for glaucomatous optic neuropathy, other factors such as a reduced ocular blood flow play an important role for appearance of the disease. Thus, treatment of glaucoma is focused on lowering of intraocular pressure and preventing the occurrence or progression of glaucomatous optic neuropathy. Endothelin participates in the regulation of intraocular pressure by an effect on trabecular outflow, the main route for aqueous humour outflow from the eye. Trabecular outflow is modulated by trabecular meshwork contractility which is affected by endothelin. In addition to the effects of endothelin in the anterior part of the eye, the vasoconstrictor causes a decrease in ocular blood flow followed by pathological changes in the retina and the optic nerve head which is assumed to contribute to the degeneration of retinal ganglion cells. In sum, inhibition of endothelin signalling leads to lowering of intraocular pressure and exerts neuroprotective effects. Thus, endothelin antagonism in the eye represents a promising approach for pharmacological treatment of glaucoma.

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