Pharmacological potential of small molecules for treating corneal neovascularization

Zachary Barry, Bomina Park, Timothy W. Corson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Under healthy conditions, the cornea is an avascular structure which allows for transparency and optimal visual acuity. Its avascular nature is maintained by a balance of proangiogenic and antiangiogenic factors. An imbalance of these factors can result in abnormal blood vessel proliferation into the cornea. This corneal neovascularization (CoNV) can stem from a variety of insults including hypoxia and ocular surface inflammation caused by trauma, infection, chemical burns, and immunological diseases. CoNV threatens corneal transparency, resulting in permanent vision loss. Mainstay treatments of CoNV have partial efficacy and associated side effects, revealing the need for novel treatments. Numerous natural products and synthetic small molecules have shown potential in preclinical studies in vivo as antiangiogenic therapies for CoNV. Such small molecules include synthetic inhibitors of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor and other tyrosine kinases, plus repurposed antimicrobials, as well as natural source-derived flavonoid and non-flavonoid phytochemicals, immunosuppressants, vitamins, and histone deacetylase inhibitors. They induce antiangiogenic and anti-inflammatory effects through inhibition of VEGF, NF-κB, and other growth factor receptor pathways. Here, we review the potential of small molecules, both synthetics and natural products, targeting these and other molecular mechanisms, as antiangiogenic agents in the treatment of CoNV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3468
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Angiogenesis
  • Corneal neovascularization
  • Drug discovery
  • Inflammation
  • Natural molecules
  • Natural products
  • Small molecules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Analytical Chemistry
  • Chemistry (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Pharmaceutical Science
  • Drug Discovery
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry

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