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Mol Pharm. 2013 Aug 5;10(8):3253-61. doi: 10.1021/mp400313u. Epub 2013 Jul 23.

17β-estradiol eye drops protect the retinal ganglion cell layer and preserve visual function in an in vivo model of glaucoma.

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Department of Molecular Biology and Immunology, University of North Texas Health Science Center , 3500 Camp Bowie Boulevard, Fort Worth, Texas 76107, United States.


Neuroprotection in glaucoma as a curative strategy complementary to current therapies to lower intraocular pressure (IOP) is highly desirable. This study was designed to investigate neuroprotection by 17β-estradiol (E2) to prevent retinal ganglion cell (RGC) death in a glaucoma model of surgically elevated IOP in rats. We found that daily treatment with E2-containing eye drops resulted in significant E2 concentration in the retina with concomitant profound neuroprotective therapeutic benefits, even in the presence of continually elevated IOP. The number of apoptotic cells in the RGC layer was significantly decreased in the E2-treated group, when compared to the vehicle-treated controls. Deterioration in visual acuity in these animals was also markedly prevented. Using mass spectrometry-based proteomics, beneficial changes in the expression of several proteins implicated in the maintenance of retinal health were also found in the retina of E2-treated animals. On the other hand, systemic side effects could not be avoided with the eye drops, as confirmed by the measured high circulating estrogen levels and through the assessment of the uterus representing a typical hormone-sensitive peripheral organ. Collectively, the demonstrated significant neuroprotective effect of topical E2 in the selected animal model of glaucoma provides a clear rationale for further studies aiming at targeting E2 into the eye while avoiding systemic E2 exposure to diminish undesirable off-target side effects.

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