Preventing Blindness in People with Diabetes

According to work by researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center, there may be a compound that can block the required chain of events that leads to damage of the retina in diabetic retinopathy.

This could then lead to therapeutic intervention that targets the mechanisms known to be at the heart of the disease: inflammation and weakening of the blood barrier protecting the retina.

Diabetic retinopathy is the number-one cause of blindness in adult Americans. The damage to the retina is caused by a protein known as vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is responsible for the weakening of the blood barrier protecting the retina.

Anti-VEGF treatment by itself has proved insufficient, but this study has spotted an important protein that is common to both the inflammation pathway and the VEGF pathway, meaning that it might be possible to develop a targeted treatment that blocks the activity of that protein, thereby blocking the disease process from both perceived mechanisms.

Promising results, long way to go

Dr. David A. Antonetti, professor in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and Molecular and Integrative Physiology and one of the study's authors, summarized the results:

In diabetic retinopathy and a host of other retinal diseases, increases in VEGF and inflammatory factors - some of the same factors that contribute to the response to an infection - cause blood vessels in the eye to leak which, in turn, results in a buildup of fluid in the neural tissue of the retina. This insidious form of modified inflammation can eventually lead to blindness.

We've identified an important target in regulating blood vessel leakage in the eye and we have a therapy that works in animal models. Our research is in the early stages of development. We still have a long way to go to demonstrate effectiveness of this compound in humans to create a new therapy, but the results are very promising.

Source: Medical News Today

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