New therapy to help diabetic eye problem

by Sarita Sheth on July 30, 2012

Compound identified interrupts the chain of events leading to vision loss

Researchers at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center in the United States have identified a compound that could interrupt the chain of events that cause damage to the retina in people with long term diabetes.

They have found a new therapy that could prevent diabetic retinopathy which happens when blood vessels behind the retina begin to swell and leak and cause loss of vision.

It works by interrupting the chain of events that lead to vision loss so that the inflammation and weakening of the blood vessels behind the retina can be stopped.

They say that the finding is significant because it could lead to a new treatment that targets inflammation and the weakening of the blood barrier that protects the retina, two of mechanisms at the root of the diabetic retinopathy.

In diabetic retinopathy, damage to the retina results, in part, from the activity of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that weakens the protective blood retinal barrier. Recent drugs targeting VEGF have exhibited good response for nearly half of the patients with diabetic retinopathy. But researchers believe that there is also an inflammatory component that may contribute further to the disease.

The study identifies a specific protein common to both pathways as an important target in regulating the disease process in which blood vessels become leaky, and provides a drug that may be developed into a therapeutic intervention for patients in which anti-VEGF treatment alone is not sufficient.

‘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 build-up of fluid in the neural tissue of the retina. This insidious form of modified inflammation can eventually lead to blindness,’ said Professor David Antonetti of the department of ophthalmology and visual sciences and molecular and integrative physiology.

‘This is a great leap forward. We’ve identified an important target in regulating blood vessel leakage in the eye and we have a therapy that works in animal models,’ he explained.

‘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,’ he added.

The compound targets a typical protein kinase C (aPKC), required for VEGF to make blood vessels leak. Moreover, Antonetti’s laboratory has demonstrated that the compound is effective at blocking damage from tumour necrosis factor also elevated in diabetic retinopathy that comprises part of the inflammation.

The scientists believe that the benefits of this compound could extend to therapies for uveitis, or changes to the brain blood vessels in the presence of brain tumours or stroke.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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