Study explains why diabetic retinopathy is difficult to treat

October 7, 2013

Damage to the retina due to diabetes can be ameliorated only partially, despite treatment with the standard drug metformin. Scientists of Helmholtz Zentrum München have discovered that metformin treatment normalizes the alterations induced by diabetes in only about half of the altered retinal proteins. The results of the study were published in the journal Diabetologia.

Retinal damage is one of the most common complications of , affecting about 90 percent of type 1 diabetics and 75 percent of type 2 diabetics. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetic retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in adults of working age, and its incidence is showing an upward trend.

The retina is the part of the eye that converts optical images into nerve signals, which are then transmitted to the brain where vision is interpreted. Numerous proteins and molecules are involved in the process of . Diabetic leads to impaired function of these proteins. Within the framework of research projects of the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD), scientists of the Research Unit Protein Science (PROT) and the Institute of Experimental Genetics (IEG) at Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) have now investigated how drug treatment affects these signal carriers. They compared the concentrations of proteins in the retinas of non-diabetic mice, of mice with type 2 diabetes without treatment and of type 2 diabetic mice that were treated with the standard drug metformin, which lowers and thus reduces diabetes complications. A total of 98 proteins were differentially abundant in the diabetic animals. About half of the proteins were normalized by treatment with metformin. The other proteins were unchanged, however, despite treatment and improved blood glucose levels. Among these was the VGLUT1, which is essential for signal transduction in specific nerve cells.

"Our results show that normalized blood glucose levels alone are not sufficient to fully treat ," said Dr. Alice Ly (PROT), lead author of the study. "In further studies we want to examine how different combination therapies affect the retinal proteins, in order to achieve a better understanding of the causes and treatment of this diabetes complication," added Dr. Stefanie Hauck (PROT).

The most common diseases in the population, such as type 2 diabetes, are the focus of research at Helmholtz Zentrum München. The aim is to develop new approaches to diagnosis, and prevention.

More information: Ly, A. et al. (2013), Retinal proteome alterations in a mouse model of type 2 diabetes, Diabetologia. DOI: 10.1007/s00125-013-3070-2

Related Stories

Diabetes leading to blindness in many people

November 30, 2012

Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults 20 to 74 years old. Dr. Michael Grodin, co-director of retinal services and director of clinical research at Katzen Eye Group, with locations around Baltimore, ...

Diabetes drug may reduce brain damage after stroke

December 3, 2012

In a study in mice, scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have discovered a new potential therapy that may reduce brain damage following stroke in type 2 diabetic patients. The suggested drug is already approved for ...

Recommended for you

Promising progress for new treatment of type 1 diabetes

July 30, 2015

New research from Uppsala University shows promising progress in the use of anti-inflammatory cytokine for treatment of type 1 diabetes. The study, published in the open access journal Scientific Reports, reveals that administration ...

Bacteria may cause type 2 diabetes

June 1, 2015

Bacteria and viruses have an obvious role in causing infectious diseases, but microbes have also been identified as the surprising cause of other illnesses, including cervical cancer (Human papilloma virus) and stomach ulcers ...

'Crosstalk' gives clues to diabetes

June 15, 2015

Sometimes, listening in on a conversation can tell you a lot. For Mark Huising, an assistant professor in the Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior at the UC Davis College of Biological Sciences, that crosstalk ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.