A Way to Preserve Itsy Bitsy Eyes

Antioxidant rhSOD may help reduce risk of blindness in extremely young preemies

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Being born too early comes with various possible health risks, including a form of blindness called retinopathy of prematurity that afflicts about half of babies born before 28 weeks.

A recent study found evidence that the risk of this blindness condition can be reduced with an antioxidant called rhSOD.

"Ask your doctor if giving extremely early preemies rhSOD may help prevent blindness."

Richard Parad, MD, at the Brigham and Women's Hospital's Department of Newborn Medicine, led the study investigating whether rhSOD could reduce risk of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).

The antioxidant's full name is recombinant human Cu/Zn superoxide dimutase (rhSOD), and Parad's team were able to assess its link to the blindness condition by using data from a different trial that looked for a link between rhSOD and a chronic lung condition in some newborns.

In the trial, 302 preemies were given either rhSOD or a placebo.

Across the whole group, the researchers did not find much difference in the rate of ROP among the babies given rhSOD compared to those who got the placebo.

But when they looked at the youngest babies, they did find significant differences between the two groups. The 72 babies born earlier than 26 weeks had a 22 percent lower rate of the blindness condition if they received rhSOD instead of the placebo.

Among the 24 babies born earlier than 25 weeks, the decrease in the blindness condition was 53 percent for those who received rhSOD.

The study was limited in the sense that its original aim was not to investigate rhSOD's association with the blindness condition specifically, but the data was still able to be used to calculate the rate of difference between the groups.

Additional studies would be necessary to confirm that rhSOD can be a preventive effect on babies when it comes to retinopathy of prematurity.

"Even though strides have been made in developing interventions to stop ROP from progressing to blindness, there are currently no therapies available for ROP prevention," Parad said. "There is a large need for the preventive approach that rhSOD could potentially provide."

The study was published online June 15 in the journal Neonatology. The research was funded by Biotechnology General Corporation, now called Savient Pharmaceuticals. A different company, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, currently owns rhSOD.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 13, 2012
Last Updated:
October 25, 2012