Glaucoma hope from turmeric eye drops

A derivative of turmeric could be used in eye drops to treat the early stages of glaucoma.


Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve leads to vision loss and blindness. It also leads to the loss of retinal ganglion cells. According to an estimate, it has affected 60 million people worldwide, leading to irreversible blindness in 1 in 10 cases.

Although, no treatment can successfully stop the loss of retinal ganglion cells. Thus, it has become an interesting part of the research for scientists.

A new study conducted by Imperial scientists and UCL scientists suggests that curcumin, a principal part and the active ingredient of turmeric, can reduce the loss of retinal cells. Using it in eye drop can cure the early stages of glaucoma.

The study’s lead author, Professor Francesca Cordeiro from Imperial’s Department of Surgery & Cancer, said: “Curcumin is an exciting compound that has shown promise at detecting and treating the neurodegeneration implicated in numerous eye and brain conditions from glaucoma to Alzheimer’s disease, so being able to administer it easily in eye drops may end up helping millions of people.”

In this study, scientists were looking to locate a more solid technique to convey curcumin. Consuming it orally is troublesome as it has poor solvency, so it doesn’t effortlessly break down and get ingested into the bloodstream. It would expect individuals to take a lot of tablets (up to 24 a day) that may cause gastrointestinal side effects.

Scientists thus developed a novel nanocarrier. The curcumin is contained within a surfactant combined with a stabilizer, both of which are known to be safe for human use and are already in existing eye products. The nanocarrier can be used in eye drops to deliver much higher loads of curcumin than other products in development, increasing the drug’s solubility by a factor of almost 400,000 and localizing the curcumin in the eyes instead of throughout the body.

Experimenting on rats, scientists found that eye drops can reduce the loss of retinal cells in rats, which is known to be an early sign of glaucoma. Using it twice a day for 3 weeks, scientists discovered that the treatment is well-tolerated with no eye irritation or inflammation signs.

Professor Francesco Cordeiro
Professor Francesco Cordeiro

Their treatment is also expected to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, as curcumin is known to bind to the amyloid-beta protein deposits implicated in Alzheimer’s, and can be detected in the retina with fluorescence to highlight the malignant proteins.

Co-lead author Dr. Ben Davis said, “We are now researching diagnostic uses for these eye drops alongside other ways to visualize the retina, as eye tests can be an opportunity to detect signs of neurodegeneration with a simple, non-invasive test.”

Professor Cordeiro added: “As we live longer, diseases such as glaucoma and Alzheimer’s are steadily increasing. We believe our findings could make a major contribution to helping the lives of people affected by these devastating diseases.”

Scientists have reported their paper in Scientific Reports.


See stories of the future in your inbox each morning.