Background: Glaucoma is a progressive optic neuropathy causing visual impairment and retinal ganglionic cells (RGCs) death gradually posing a need for neuroprotective strategies to minimize the loss of RGCs and visual field. It is recognized as a multifactorial disease, intraocular pressure (IOP) being the foremost risk factor. ROCK inhibitors have been probed for various possible indications, such as myocardial ischemia, hypertension, kidney diseases. Their role in neuroprotection and neuronal regeneration has been suggested to be of value in the treatment of neurological diseases, like spinal-cord injury, Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis but recently Rho-associated kinase inhibitors have been recognized as potential antiglaucoma agents.
Evidence synthesis: Rho-Kinase is a serine/threonine kinase with a kinase domain which is constitutively active and is involved in the regulation of smooth muscle contraction and stress fibre formation. Two isoforms of Rho-Kinase, ROCK-I (ROCK β) and ROCK-II (ROCK α) have been identified. ROCK II plays a pathophysiological role in glaucoma and hence the inhibitors of ROCK may be beneficial to ameliorate the vision loss. These inhibitors decrease the intraocular pressure in the glaucomatous eye by increasing the aqueous humour outflow through the trabecular meshwork pathway. They also act as anti-scarring agents and hence prevent post-operative scarring after the glaucoma filtration surgery. Their major role involves axon regeneration by increasing the optic nerve blood flow which may be useful in treating the damaged optic neurons. These drugs act directly on the neurons in the central visual pathway, interrupting the RGC apoptosis and therefore serve as a novel pharamacological approach for glaucoma neuroprotection.
Conclusion: Based on the results of high-throughput screening, several Rho kinase inhibitors have been designed and developed comprising of diverse scaffolds exhibiting Rho kinase inhibitory activity from micromolar to subnanomolar ranges. This diversity in the scaffolds with inhibitory potential against the kinase and their SAR development will be intricated in the present review.
Ripasudil is the only Rho kinase inhibitor marketed to date for the treatment of glaucoma. Another ROCK inhibitor AR-13324 has recently passed the clinical trials whereas AMA0076, K115, PG324, Y39983 and RKI-983 are still under trials. In view of this, a detailed and updated account of ROCK II inhibitors as the next generation therapeutic agents for glaucoma will be discussed in this review.