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Am J Pathol. 2010 Jul;177(1):132-40. doi: 10.2353/ajpath.2010.090604. Epub 2010 May 20.

N-acetylcysteine suppresses retinal detachment in an experimental model of proliferative vitreoretinopathy.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Harvard Medical School, 20 Staniford St, Boston, MA 02114, USA.


Proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) is a complication that develops in 5% to 10% of patients who undergo surgery to correct a detached retina. The only treatment option for PVR is surgical intervention, which has a limited success rate that diminishes in patients with recurring PVR. Our recent studies revealed that antioxidants prevented intracellular signaling events that were essential for experimental PVR. The purpose of this study was to test whether N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), an antioxidant used in a variety of clinical settings, was capable of protecting rabbits from PVR. Vitreous-driven activation of PDGFRalpha and cellular responses intrinsic to PVR (contraction of collagen gels and cell proliferation) were blocked by concentrations of NAC that were well below the maximum tolerated dose. Furthermore, intravitreal injection of NAC effectively protected rabbits from developing retinal detachment, which is the sight-robbing phase of PVR. Finally, these observations with an animal model appear relevant to clinical PVR because NAC prevented human PVR vitreous-induced contraction of primary RPE cells derived from a human PVR membrane. Our observations demonstrate that antioxidants significantly inhibited experimental PVR, and suggest that antioxidants have the potential to function as a PVR prophylactic in patients undergoing retinal surgery to repair a detached retina.

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